A San Luis Obispo, CA judge has ruled that the rights of boaters, kayakers, and surfers to view a California coastline free from homes carry more weight that the rights of private property owners.
As a result of the judge's decision California property owner Dennis Schneider will become the first person to challenge a new California Coastal Commission policy that prohibits the building or modification of homes along the California coast to "protect views" from the Pacific Ocean.
In 2000, local officials granted Schneider a permit to build a single-family residence and barn on the 40 acres he owns in San Luis Obispo County. But the California Coastal Commission appealed the countys decisionto itselfand, not surprisingly, rejected the permit. Instead, the commission ordered Schneider to reduce the size of his home and move it into a ravineeven though geologic experts told the commission the ravine was unsafe due to the threat of erosion.
Mr. Schneider took the commission to court, but in a decision issued in June, a judge ruled the Coastal Commissions authority under the Coastal Act extends to "offshore views." Although the judge likened the bureaucratic hassles Mr. Schneider has faced during the permit process to "being nibbled to death by ducks," he nevertheless held: "It is clear to the Court that the beauty of a sunrise from a vantage point offshore is afforded the same protection as a sunset seen from land."
The courts decision has been appealed on Schneider's behalf by the Pacific Legal Foundation, whose attorney Larry Salzman stated in a press release, "The Coastal Commission is demanding that Californians sacrifice their constitutionally protected property rights to the esthetic preferences of random strangers."
"This is one of the commissions most hostile acts against Californians who want to live near the beach," Salzman said. "Its an unprecedented power grab that would allow the commission to reject any and all new building along the California coast."
"Whats next--banning boating on the Pacific so that beachgoers have a pristine view of the sea?" he said.