California Coastal Act

— The California Coastal Zone Conservation Act of 1972 (Proposition 20) was a temporary measure passed by the voters of the state as a ballot initiative. It set up temporary regional Coastal Commissions with permit authority and a directive to prepare a comprehensive coastal plan. The coastal commissions under Proposition 20 lacked the authority to implement the Coastal Plan but were required to submit the Plan to the legislature for “adoption and implementation.”

— The California Coastal Act of 1976 is the permanent enacting law approved by the State legislature. The Coastal Act established a different set of policies, a different boundary line, and different permitting procedures than Proposition 20. Further, it provides for the transfer of permitting authority, with certain limitations reserved for the State, to local governments through adoption and certification of Local Coastal Programs (LCP) by the Coastal Commission.

— Effective January 1, 1977, the California Coastal Act is intended to, among other things, “[m]aximizepublic access to and along the coast and maximize public recreational opportunities to the coastal zone consistent with sound resources conservation principles and constitutionally protected right of private property owners.”

(§ 30001.5, subd. (c).) 

— In its over forty-year history the Coastal Commission has secured more than 2,000 public access easements statewide, protected innumerable existing access resources, and provided a variety of lower-cost recreational opportunities. This is according to the California Coastal Commission Strategic Plan 2013-2018 which was unanimously approved by the Coastal Commission in April 2013.

— Numerous legal cases have challenged the public access easements obtained on grounds including lack of an essential nexus.


California Constitution: Article 1, Section 1:

— All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rightsAmong these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

— A balance is required between public access and the rights of private property owners


Section 30211 : Development not to interfere with access.

—Development shall not interfere with the public’s right of access to the sea where acquired through use or legislative authorization, including, but not limited to, the use of dry sand and rocky coastal beaches to the first line of terrestrial vegetation.


Section 30210 : Access

— maximum access . . . shall be provided for all the people consistent with public safety needs and the need to protect public rights, rights of private property owners, and natural resource areas from overuse.


— Right to protect property subject to “reasonable restraints,” including prior government approval and conditions to protect public resources. Whaler’s Village Club v. California Coastal Com. (1985) 173 Cal.App.3d 240.