Thursday, September 28, 2006
High Court Denies Depublication of Ruling on Offshore Coastal Views
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The state Supreme Court yesterday denied requests from the California Coastal Commission, the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network and the Sierra Club that it depublish a ruling barring the commission from regulating coastal development in order to protect a boater’s right to a view of the coastline from the ocean.
Without comment or dissent, the justices—meeting in San Francisco for their weekly conference—allowed the June 28 ruling by Div. Six of this district’s Court of Appeal in Schneider v. California Coastal Commission, B186149, to remain binding as precedent.
The panel said the commission had erred in conditioning a development permit on the preservation of boaters’ views of the coast off San Luis Obispo County.
Justice Kenneth Yegan, writing for the court, said it was “unreasonable to assume that the Legislature has ever sought to protect the occasional boater’s views of the coastline at the expense of a coastal landowner.”
The commission’s decision was challenged by Dennis Schneider, owner of a 40-acre, ocean-front parcel on the Harmony Coast, an Ocean Shoreline Sensitive Resource Area with undeveloped coastal bluffs, marine terraces, and steep ridgelines. Schneider’s parcel has step-like topography and a steeply sloped ridge that extends down to a flat marine terrace that abuts the ocean bluff, which has no beach below it.
In 2000, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission granted Schneider a permit to build a 10,000-square foot residence, a barn, and a mile long access road from Highway 1. Two Coastal Commission members appealed the county’s issuance of the permit, claiming that the development was inconsistent with the Local Coastal Plan.
After a hearing, the commission approved the permit but imposed conditions designed to protect the view of the coastline from an ocean vantage point. These conditions included requirements that the residence be built at a higher level, all development be confined to an area no greater than 5,000 square feet, all structures be limited to a single story, the barn not be built, and the access road be moved.
Schneider filed a petition for administrative mandamus alleging that the commission lacked authority to impose conditions designed to protect offshore views of the coastline. The commission argued that the enjoyment of uncluttered views from the ocean was a protected public resource.
The trial judge agreed with the commission, saying “the beauty of a sunrise from a vantage point offshore is afforded the same protection as a sunset seen from land.” But the Court of Appeal disagreed, citing Sec. 30251 of the Coastal Act, which provides that permitted developments shall be designed to “protect views to and along the ocean and scenic coastal areas.”
The commission, Yegan wrote, had stretched the language too far. “‘To and along the ocean’ does not encompass ‘from the sea to the coast,’ ” the jurist said.
In other conference action, the court ordered that a former Mid-Wilshire attorney, Wyndell John Wright, be disbarred.
Wright, a Harvard Law School graduate admitted in 1986, failed to comply with Rule 955(c) of the California Rules of Court after being suspended last year, the high court found. The rule requires that a suspended attorney notify clients and opposing counsel of the suspension, advise clients when and where they can pick up their papers, and file an affidavit of compliance, all within 40 days of the suspension order.
Wright last year drew a three-year suspension after stipulating to 14 acts of misconduct in nine consolidated cases. The misconduct included writing bad checks against his client trust account, endorsing a client’s name to two settlement checks without the client’s knowledge or consent and failing to pay the client’s share of the settlement, and failing to perform legal services competently, return client files, communicate with a client and refund unearned fees.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company