Preceding the successful “Save Trestles” campaign that ended with the Water Quality Board denying the 241 extension, the Surfrider Foundation is now full force on another project, gaining public access to Strands Beach in Dana Point, a prime location for surfers.
The Surfrider Foundation claimed victory last Thursday when judges Terry O’Rourke and Cynthia Aaron concluded that the Coastal Commission has the authority for oversight of beach access at Strands Beach. This should put an end to the city’s claims used to avoid public beach access at the relatively hidden beach. The decision means that if the City of Dana Point continues to deny opening the locked gates and expanding the constrictive access hours for Strands Beach, the Coastal Commission can take an enforcement action, and they surely aren’t afraid to do so.
Surfrider Foundation Legal Director Angela Howe described, “This opinion is even better for Surfrider Foundation than the trial court’s ruling because it sets a statewide precedent confirming the strength of the Coastal Commission and the Coastal Act to protect our beach access rights…Not only will access at Dana Point Strands Beach be protected through this ruling, but other municipalities and developers will be estopped from abusing nuisance abatement authority to the detriment of public access.”
The historical ramifications of the claim began in the summer of 2010. On behalf of the Surfrider Foundation McDermott Will & Emery LLP filed a lawsuit against the City of Dana Point, challenging its “unlawful restriction” of beach access at Strands Beach by erecting gates and limiting hours with its two access ways to enter the beach. The lawsuit was provoked in response to the city’s illegal restrictions on beach access through the passage of an Urgency Ordinance on March 22, 2010 (in an attempt to supecede the Coastal Commission’s requirement to open beach access.)
The City had attempted to enact a decree that notes “public nuisance” conditions in an attempt to support restrictive hours on the public’s use of the mid-Strands access. However, Judge Lewis’ trial court found the police reports citing “sex parties,” “homeless encampments,” “vandalism,” and “spring break traffic” to be lacking and of merely speculation; not enough to deny public access to a coastal getaway.
The Appellate Court declined to rule on the trial court’s decision on the Surfrider Foundation case because the Coastal Commission has the necessary jurisdiction to enforce maximum access provisions of the Coastal Act and it could possibly solve the access issue. Legal Director Howe continued by commenting, “This is excellent precedent-setting interpretation of 30005(b), which is the nuisance abatement provision of the Coastal Act… Now California cities cannot try to use that loophole to avoid the coastal protection and beach access safeguards of the Coastal Act.”
Rick Erkeneff, Chairman of the Surfrider Foundation OC Chapter, further described how although this may seem like a mini victory it is actually a large feat because, “It supports the big picture of coastal access and upholds the Coastal Act in California, which guarantees public access to beaches.”
Check out Strand Beach from the view of a DJI F450 RC Heli here:
About Surfrider Foundation
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, visit www.surfrider.org.