Coastal Commission can’t force San Clemente man to waive right to protect mobile home on seawall, judge says

Aug. 30, 2016 |Updated 6:14 p.m.

Eric Willis of San Clemente sued the state when he was told he would have to waive his right to repairs and maintenance of a sea wall near his home in exchange for a permit for a new mobile home.


A San Clemente homeowner claimed victory over the California Coastal Commission when a judge ruled Wednesday he does not have to waive his right to protect his oceanfront residential property in exchange for a permit to replace his mobile home with a newer, smaller one.

Eric Willis filed a motion earlier this year to set aside the permit condition that would have required him to forgo any repairs, maintenance or replacement of the seawall in front of his 40-year-old mobile home, which is plagued with plumbing and electrical issues.

The commission appeared to be overreaching its authority, Judge Theodore Howard wrote in his ruling, which could affect coastal property owners if allowed to stand.

Because the mobile home park owns the seawall, which was found to be in good condition during a visual inspection, it¡¦s responsible for any maintenance or repairs.

“I didn’t propose to touch it and I’m not even sure I have the right to touch it,” Willis said. “There¡¦s no nexis between me rolling in a new mobile and them asking me to waive my right to protect my home near that seawall..”

The wall protects Wills¡¦ home and 89 others at the Capistrano Shores Mobile Home Park, a waterfront community between San Clemente State Beach and Poche Beach.

Some homeowners there had already waived their rights in order to get permits, he said.

The commission said that when Willis replaced the aging mobile home with a newer one, it constituted a new development, which is not entitled to shoreline protection under the state¡¦s Coastal Act.

Willis said he invested over $200,000 in his new prefabricated home and related work, and that moving ahead with it was a huge risk when he had to rely on a court ruling to preserve his right to maintain the sea wall.

An agency spokesperson said the commission will decide whether to take further action on the matter.

¡§We¡¦re reviewing the decision and evaluating next steps,¡¨ a commission statement said. ¡§This case illustrates how challenging it can be planning for new development along the coastline in an age of sea level rise.¡¨

Attorney Larry Salzman of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public-interest property rights law firm which took the case, said precedents from similar cases establish that the government cannot put conditions on permit to build on your own property.

¡§The U.S. Supreme Court and other courts have repeatedly said that government may not demand that people give up property rights in exchange for a permit, except to mitigate an adverse public impact of the property owners¡¦ proposed development,¡¨ he said.

Contact the writer: 714-796-2478 or