The Coastal Post - August, 1996

COAST Loses Lawsuit—Vows To Appeal


In spite of the fact that Judge Gary Thomas ruled that COAST (Citizens for Open Access to Land and Tide) represented only themselves as individuals, and couldn't claim rights on behalf of the public, the citizens' advocate group will appeal the ruling.

There is precedent for such an appeal. "Our intention is to file a Writ of Mandate such as Dietz did in his case against King," said Roger Hart, who is coordinator for the team of pro bono lawyers who brought the suit. "The Dietz case showed that citizen groups can sue private persons for the public good." The Dietz case was declared valid by the California Supreme Court.

The judge's ruling came just one day before the jury trial, set for July 11th. Various people were all set to give depositions as to their historic rights to the beach. One such a person had spent his honeymoon at Stinson Beach in 1937, and walked to the end of the sandspit, where he picnicked with his new wife.

In an agreement signed by the California Coastal Commission, the U.S. Department of the Interior, serveral title companies and representatives of the Seadrift Association, (who, incidentally, met behind closed doors with no member of the general public present), they crafted a settlement which greatly reduces public access to the Seadrift Beach.

Among other things, the public is restricted to the wet sand area, may not go within 60 feet of the houses, does not allow group sports or alcohol on Seadrift Beach, and the public is not allowed access to the beach between 10 p.m. and one hour before sunrise. But it is the ban on picnicking that particularly irks old-timers. To walk to the end of the sandspit and picnic on the beach was almost a ritual.

The public has sued Seadrift before and will probably sue again to regain their historic rights to the Seadrift Beach. Many old-timers remember when Seadrift didn't exist. There was just a mound of sand dunes where Seadrift now is a luxury locked-gate community.

Is the COAST lawsuit going to prevail? "I hope so," said Hurt. "It is so important when our institutions don't do their job or they compromise it."

This reporter thinks Hurt was referring to the Coastal Commission, which recently, under the Republican leadership, is more likely to consider property rights than public access.