A decision by the Coastal Commission not to intervene in a dispute between Malibu property owners was upheld by the Second District Court of Appeal.
The court affirmed the Commission's refusal to conduct a hearing on a proposed beachfront house that was approved by the City of Malibu but opposed by the next door neighbors. The court also found that a State Lands Commission failure to investigate the project's potential impact on public tidelands was not enough to disturb the city's approval.
In 2004, property owner Jeff Stibel applied for a permit to construct a 3,500-square-foot house and 450-square-foot garage on beachfront property on Escondido Beach Road in Malibu. The project would also include an on-site septic system and a bulkhead on the adjacent sandy beach, as well as the merger of two existing lots.
Daniel Alberstone and Lisa Ogawa, who own a house next to Stibel's property, fought the proposal. They argued the project would violate Malibu's local coastal program (LCP) because it would require construction of a protective device (the bulkhead) and other shoreline stabilization during the 100-year life of the project, and because the merged lot would be smaller than zoning allowed.
The City Council approved Stibel's application in May 2006. Alberstone and Ogawa appealed to the Coastal Commission, but the Commission determined the appeal did not raise a "substantial issue" and refused to hear the matter. Alberstone and Ogawa then sued to compel the Commission to conduct a hearing on Stibel's application. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Yaffe ruled against the neighbors, who then appealed.
Alberstone and Ogawa argued that Yaffe made a number of errors and his ruling was not supported by the evidence. The Second District, however, declined to consider the argument because the appellate court's role in the case was to review the administrative record, not the trial court's conclusions. The court then turned to the merits.
Under the Coastal Act, the Commission must hear an appeal unless it determines the appeal does not present a substantial issue, which is defined as significant question about conformity with a local coastal program. Alberstone and Ogawa argued that the project conflicted with the LCP because it prohibits "land divisions" that could require shoreline protection or bluff stabilization structures. They said the term "land divisions" included lot mergers, and they noted the project included a proposed bulkhead.
The Commission determined that the specific provisions of the LCP in question excluded lot mergers. The Commission – which essentially drafted and adopted the LCP on Malibu's behalf – had excluded mergers in order to encourage lot consolidation.
"We are inclined to defer to the Commission's interpretation," Justice Patricia Bigelow wrote for the unanimous appellate panel, "because it presents a reasonable interpretation that is in keeping with the purposes of the LCP."
Alberstone and Ogawa further argued the small size of the lot resulting from the merger conflicted with the LCP. The Commission conceded the lot would be of substandard size but concluded the lot size standards do not apply to mergers. Besides, the city had concluded it could not deny economic use of the residentially zoned property. The Commission and city's reasoning was good enough for the court, which determined the Commission had met the intent of the LCP.
The Malibu LCP also requires the State Lands Commission to determine whether a proposed development on the beach or along the shoreline would encroach on tidelands or other public trust interests. When asked for a determination, the State Lands Commission said it did not have time or resources to investigate and instead stated that it "presently asserts no claims that the project intrudes onto sovereign lands or that it would lie in an area that is subject to the public easement."
Alberstone and Ogawa argued the Lands Commission's failure to make the required finding required the rejection of Stibel's application. But the court said that striking the Coastal Commission's approval based on the Lands Commission's response "would be a tremendous waste of time and resources."
The Case: Alberstone v. California Coastal Commission, No. B202008, 08 C.D.O.S. 15636, 2008 DJDAR 18887. Filed December 29, 2008. The Lawyers: For Alberstone: Roland Tellis, Bingham McCutchen, (310) 907-1000. For the Commission: Hayley Peterson, attorney general's office (619) 645-2540. For Jeff Stibel: Alan Robert Block, Block & Block, (310) 552-3336.
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A property owner cannot participate in a California Coastal Commission appeal process for years and then assert that the Commission was prohibited from considering the appeal because it missed a procedural deadline years earlier, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled. The court rejected a Pacific Palisades landowner's contention that the Commission had lost jurisdiction over an appeal of the landowner's three-lot development because the Commission did not conduct a hearing within 49 days of receiving an appeal in 1999.
When a development project straddles the coastal zone boundary, the Coastal Commission may not use its jurisdiction over the portion of the project within the coastal zone to influence development outside of the zone, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
The Malibu Bay Company (MBC) owns the last undeveloped beach front parcel in Malibu, a 2.08-acre, 200-foot-wide parcel. In order to accommodate its proposed division into four parcels, MDC proposed an amendment to the Local Implementation Plan of Malibu's local coastal plan in order to create a new zoning district which would allow for lot widths of 45 feet, a decrease from the, then existing, standard of 80 feet.
A state appellate court has upheld the California Coastal Commission's denial of a development permit for a small mixed-use project in Morro Bay.
The court rejected developer Dan Reddell's arguments that the commission violated his due process and equal protection rights, and that its decision was a regulatory taking of property. Instead, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that substantial evidence supported the commission's finding that Reddell's project was inconsistent with Morro Bay's local coastal plan (LCP).
Opponents of the proposed construction of two houses on a coastal bluff in San Clemente may pursue their lawsuit to overturn the California Coastal Commission's approval of the projects, even though the suit was filed after a statute of limitations had ostensibly expired, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.
After 76 years afloat, the RMS Queen Mary surely still draws stares from the cargo ship crews that call at the Port of Long Beach, where the Queen remains one of Southern California's more incongruous tourist attractions. Having sailed the North Atlantic under the Cunard flag, the ship has, since 1968, served simultaneously as a hotel, museum, event venue, and elegant icon for an otherwise working-class Southern California port city.
A state appellate court has upheld the Coastal Commission's handling of a housing project appeal. The court ruled that although the Commission did not comply precisely with the state open meeting law's requirements, the Commission came close enough and did not portray an intent to avoid the law.
The California Coastal Commission lost its jurisdiction over development of a proposed elementary school in Encinitas because the Commission did not determine within 49 days whether a "substantial issue" existed, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled. The ruling appears to knock down a practice in which the Commission within 49 days of receiving an appeal sets a later hearing date without addressing any of the issues.
In an important decision on taking law, a divided California Supreme Court has ruled that a temporary taking did not occur when an erroneous decision by the California Coastal Commission delayed a property owner's plans to build a house in Malibu. The case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.