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Plaintiffs Sue Group of Surfers and City of Palos Verdes Estates

In a strange story, an El Segundo police officer and several other named plaintiffs have initiated class action litigation against a group of surfers referred to as the Lunada Bay Boys, the City of Palos Verdes Estates, and the city's chief of police. The plaintiffs allege that "non-resident, non-local visiting beachgoers to Palos Verdes Estates have been unlawfully excluded from recreational opportunities at Palos Verdes Estates parks, beaches, and access to the ocean." Further, the plaintiffs argue that the Lunada Bay Boys, with the approval of the city, have "knowingly built and maintain[] an unpermitted masonry-rock-and-wood fort and seat area in violation of the California Coastal Act."

Lunada Bay, which is located on the northwest tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, is referred to by plaintiffs as "Southern California's premier big-wave break" but is well-known for "localism." In the surfing community, "localism" is a practice whereby local surfers attempt to exclude non-resident surfers and beachgoers by threats of violence and intimidation. According to the plaintiffs, the Lunada Bay Boys have allegedly slashed car tires, assaulted non-resident surfers in the water, and coordinated attacks on outsiders with a barrage of dirt clods.

As USC Adjunct Professor Olu Orange recently stated, it is "unusual for a group of private citizens - rather than a government entity - to seek a gang injunction." That is precisely what the plaintiffs seek in this case. To complicate things even further, it was reported that an enforcement offers for the California Coastal Commission recently sent a letter to city officials that stated that the Lunada Bay Boys were subject to the commission's regulations and permitting process. In part, the letter stated, "Precluding full public use of the coastline at Palos Verdes Estates, including the waters of Lunada Bay, whether through physical devices ... or impediments, such as threatening behavior intended to discourage public use of the coastline, represents a change of access to water, and, thus, constitutes development."

Needless to say, this litigation raises some interesting legal questions that must be resolved by the court. Also, seeing as how the Coastal Commission has been aggressive with other matters determined to be within their jurisdiction, they will no doubt have a part to play in resolving this conflict at Lunada Bay. It will be interesting to observe how the court handles this strange intersection of parties involved in this lawsuit.

L. Sue Loftin is the Founder and Managing Shareholder of The Loftin Firm. For questions relating to this blog or any other California real estate, corporate governance, land use, or estate planning matter, contact Ms. Loftin at (760) 814-9649. 

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