Supreme Court agrees to hear Encinitas seawall case


The California Supreme Court announced Dec. 10 it will hear a lawsuit challenging restrictions on an Encinitas seawall, potentially impacting the structures across the state.

An appellate court ruled in September the California Coastal Commission could limit the life of the Encinitas seawall to 20 years. The Pacific Legal Foundation, representing Encinitas homeowners Barbara Lynch and Thomas Frick, appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

The case could set a precedent in the lifespan of California seawalls.

“By taking this important case, the state Supreme Court now has an opportunity to slam the brakes on the Coastal Commission’s obsessive crusade against seawalls,” said attorney Paul J. Beard II, with the Pacific Legal Foundation, in a press release. “It’s a crusade that amounts to an unconstitutional war on property rights.”

A 2010 storm destroyed the 100-foot seawall and an adjoining staircase at Grandview Beach. The coastal commission denied the homeowners’ request to rebuild the staircase and approved the seawall on the condition it expires in 20 years. At that time, the commission wants to reassess whether the seawall is necessary, leaving the possibility open for it to be torn down.

The Encinitas families have argued the 20-year condition is illegal and would hurt their property values.

Meanwhile, the commission has stated in past legal briefs that it’s important to reevaluate seawalls every 20 years given the potential for new types of fortifying structures, minus the drawbacks of seawalls, to come online. The briefs also say seawalls cut off a natural source of sand that’s important for healthy beaches.

A start date hasn’t been set for oral arguments.