You might take it as a given that if you invest hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of dollars in your home, you have the right to protect it from damage, particularly that caused by bad weather or other natural disasters. But that is apparently not the case in California, especially if you happen to live along the Golden State’s 840 miles of coastline.
Thomas Frick and Jennifer Lynch, two neighboring property owners who live atop a bluff overlooking the ocean in Encinitas, had a seawall and the lower portion of a long-existing stairway down to the beach that they share destroyed during a severe storm in 2010. The city granted Frick and Lynch’s late mother approval to restore the structures, but the California Coastal Commission had other ideas. It prohibited any repairs to the stairway, and would only grant a temporary, 20-year permit for the seawall, after which the homeowners would have to again seek the permission of the Commission or be forced to tear it out.
The homeowners won a lawsuit in a state superior court in 2013, but an appellate court panel reversed the ruling in a 2-1 decision the following year. The case, Lynch v. California Coastal Commission, is now in the hands of the California Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on May 4.
“The Coastal Commission’s treatment of these homeowners is part of an anti-seawall agenda that the agency has been imposing up and down the coast,” Pacific Legal Foundation Executive Vice President and General Counsel John Groen, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, said in a statement. “This case offers the state Supreme Court an opportunity to affirm the rule of law against an agenda-driven bureaucracy. Coastal homeowners have a statutory and constitutional right to protect the integrity of their property, and the commission’s subversion of that right must end.”
But it is not just unelected bureaucrats that are threatening property rights all along the state’s coast. Lawmakers…