Thursday, June 29, 2006
Builder May Block Boaters’ Offshore Coastal View—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Coastal development cannot be regulated in order to protect a boater’s right to a view of the coastline from the ocean, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
In an opinion by Justice Kenneth R. Yegan of Div. Six, joined by Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert and Justice Steven Z. Perren, the court reversed San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Roger T. Picquet and said that property owner Dennis C. Schneider was entitled to an order vacating a Coastal Commission decision conditioning the granting of a development permit.
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.”
Schneider owns 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.
Picquet 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.
Yegan noted that Sec. 30251 of the Coastal Act provides that permitted developments shall be designed to “protect views to and along the ocean and scenic coastal areas.”
He reasoned that the commission’s interpretation of the section, “adds the words ‘and from’ between the . . . words ‘along,’ and ‘the.’ The statute would thus read, ‘. . . protect views to and along, and from, the ocean . . . .’
“This expansive reading of the statute stretches the fabric too thin,” he said.
Responding to commission Executive Director Peter Douglas’ statement at the commission hearing that, “You have a responsibility under the Coastal Act to protect views to and along the ocean, and to the ocean means both from the land . . . to the coast, and from the sea to the coast,” Yegan said, “We are unable to agree with this leap in logic. ‘To and along the ocean’ does not encompass ‘from the sea to the coast.’”
He added, “If and when the California Legislature expressly codifies a boater’s “right to a view” of the coastline, the courts can and will lawfully give it credence.”
The case is Schneider v. California Coastal Commission, 06 S.O.S. 3333.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company