North San Diego County Seawall Is At Center Of Legal Fight

Monday, June 8, 2015

By Erik Anderson

Angela Howe stands at the base of the Lynch seawall in Encinitas and talks about the homeowner’s legal challenge to the California Coastal Commission’s Authority, on June 8, 2015.

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Aired 6/9/15 on KPBS News.

The long running debate over seawalls has found its way to the state’s highest court.

An Encinitas seawall is at the heart of a dispute under review by the California Supreme Court. The state’s top justices are considering an appeal that challenges the California Coastal Commission’s right to regulate the man-made structures.

The seawall, which was rebuilt by property owners Frick and Lynch, sits at the bottom of a coastal bluff. It was put there to protect a couple of properties that are threatened if the sand stone cliffs erode naturally.

The owners of the wall are challenging the California Coastal Commission’s right to permit and regulate the coastal armaments. But Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter’s legal director Angela Howe said the group filed a motion supporting the Coastal Commission.

“We’re concerned about the statewide view of this and the California Coastal Commission’s ability to protect beach access, ecological resources, and recreational resources, that seawalls can harm,” Howe said. “Scientists and engineers agree that seawalls can kill the beach.”

But the issue remains controversial. Local residents argue that people who have homes on the bluffs should be able to protect them.

“If they were to have an event and start to lose enough property that they would actually lose their home if they didn’t mitigate it with a seawall, I feel that that’s completely unreasonable,” Encinitas resident Ellen Fales said.

Fales is not convinced the beach is threatened by the seawalls.

The California Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case either late this year or early next year.

ERIK ANDERSON, Environment Reporter | Contact | Follow @KPBSErik on Twitter