Monday, April 25, 2005
C.A. Rules State Lands Commission Lacked Power to Approve Swap of Long Beach Coastal Property
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Lands Commission acted beyond its authority in agreeing to swap three acres of Long Beach tidelands for 10 acres along the Los Angeles River, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Justice Vance W. Raye on Thursday cited Public Resources Code Sec. 6307 in rejecting the agreement, which permitted development in the tidelands property. That provision of law allows the commission to make land exchanges if they will “enhance the configuration of the shoreline for the improvement of the water and upland.”
Raye pointed out that in approving the exchange, the commission said that access to the oceanfront would be improved and the utility of the property enhanced. But those considerations had nothing to do with shoreline configuration and were not purposes listed in Sec. 6307, the justice explained.
The land swap was challenged by environmentalists who have fought the development, called the Pike at Rainbow Harbor, which contains restaurants, shops and a movie theater.
Raye said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gail D. Ohanesian erred in ruling that the commission action was supported by evidence that the tideland areas “had been filled, paved over and used as parking lots for many years, and that the exchange will allow improvements of the upland which will make greater use of the—parcels, will attract additional visitors to the shoreline, and will improve the access to the shoreline and water.”
“The statute speaks of enhancing the configuration of the shoreline. It is silent on the issue of access or utility.”
Raye also rejected the commission’s contention that the “shoreline configuration” language of Sec. 6307 could be read as referring to the property acquired under the swap, not just the property being surrendered.
“The purposes served by the exchange unambiguously refer to the land to be exchanged, not the land to be acquired,” Raye declared.
“Read in context, the goal of enhancing the configuration of the shoreline requires a change of the physical geography of the shoreline or the construction of an improvement to the shoreline. The exchange at issue does neither. It does not change the physical geography of the shoreline, nor does it add an improvement to the shoreline.”
The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported on its Web site Thursday that while the Pike area has “been slowly filling with tenants” while environmentalists, the developer and state and city officials quarreled over the land use issues, “the center has struggled to fill some retail space, in part because of the coastal restrictions.”
Justice George Nicholson concurred in the opinion authored for the court by Raye. Justice Coleman A. Blease wrote separately, saying he agreed with that the commission action was invalid but only because the tideland areas in question had already been paved over.
“[S]ection 6307 does not apply to former tidelands that are not on navigable waters because they have been filled,” Blease argued, adding:
“[T]he proposed exchange cannot ‘enhance the configuration of the shoreline....’ There is no shoreline to be reconfigured.”
The case is California Earth Corps v. California State Lands Commission, 05 S.O.S. 1978.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company