Lawsuit filed against City of Solana Beach over seawall, stairway regulations

By Joe Tash

A group representing coastal property owners has filed a lawsuit against the City of Solana Beach, alleging that land-use rules adopted by the City Council in February violate both state law and the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court on Friday, April 26, by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of the Beach & Bluff Conservancy, a nonprofit group that represents coastal landowners in Solana Beach, according to a statement released by the foundation.

At issue are rules adopted by the council that affect bluff-top development in the city, which could limit the ability of coastal homeowners to build and maintain seawalls and private stairways. The rules also concern how far back from the edge of the bluff any new structures must be placed.

“Our lawsuit says to Solana Beach, ‘Tear down your unlawful anti-seawall policies, and stop eroding the property rights of coastal landowners,’” said foundation principal attorney Paul J. Beard II, in the written statement.

In an email, Solana Beach City Manager David Ott declined to comment on the lawsuit, except to say “The City will not be providing any comments in regards to the Pacific Legal Foundation lawsuit other than it is under legal review.”

In February, the City Council voted 4-1, with Councilman Tom Campbell in opposition, to move forward with a draft coastal land use plan that will be submitted for consideration by the California Coastal Commission.

Once Solana Beach has an approved coastal plan in place, the city would have more autonomy to approve development projects within its borders.

The debate pits property owners who want to protect their homes from coastal bluff erosion against those who are concerned about public beach access and environmental preservation.

The process of seeking approval for the city’s local coastal plan has proved contentious; it’s now gone on for 13 years, with the city submitting seven different versions of the plan for consideration.

The Beach & Bluff Conservancy filed a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission in March 2012 after the panel rejected a previous version of the local coastal plan submitted by Solana Beach.