Surfrider takes legal action in Encinitas seawall case


San Diego Surfrider Foundation on Aug. 7 took legal action to support the California Coastal Commission in a potentially precedent-setting case over an Encinitas seawall.

Surfrider’s move follows a June announcement that it’s backing the coastal commission’s ability to review and put a 20-year time limit on a Grandview Beach seawall.

Pacific Legal Foundation, representing two Encinitas homeowners, sued the coastal commission, arguing the agency’s power to reassess the need for a seawall in 20 years infringes on private property rights.

Late last year, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, potentially affecting the lifespan of seawalls across the state.

Surfrider’s supportive “friend of the court” legal brief argues that diminished coastal commission oversight could lead to limited beach access and recreational opportunities, according to a Surfrider press release. The group has stated seawalls choke off sand that’s key for maintaining healthy beaches and wave quality.

“We are confident the court will uphold the long-standing California tradition of preserving affordable public access to the coast,” said Staley Prom, Surfrider Foundation’s legal associate, in the press release.

The press release also cited a Stanford Law School study that found “coastal armoring has diminished California’s beaches.”

A 2010 storm destroyed the 100-foot wide Grandview Beach seawall. The coastal commission approved a new seawall on the condition it expires in 20 years. At that point, the homeowners would have to reapply to the commission and, if denied, the wall would be torn down.

The homeowners, Thomas Frick and neighbor Barbara Lynch, have stated a 20-year limit on their joint seawall would hurt their property values and put their homes at risk.

In June, attorney J. David Breemer, with Pacific Legal Foundation, said the California Coastal Act gives homeowners the right to protect their property if it’s threatened. He also stated it’s unrealistic to never have seawalls.

It’s expected the California Supreme Court will hear the case later this year.