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Private California Beaches May be Opened to Public After Court Declines Case

May 20, 1986

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) _ Many private California beaches may soon be opened to the public because the U.S. Supreme Court refused to enter a dispute based in an oceanfront community.

The court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by residents of the Whalers’ Village Club, who were ordered by the California Coastal Commission to provide public access to their beach in exchange for retroactive approval of a sea wall. The rock wall was built without a permit in 1980 after winter storm surf eroded the beach and threatened beachfront homes.

″All that’s left is for them to come take the beach,″ said Whalers’ Village president Don Paul. ″And we’ll have to police and maintain it.″

Attorneys for both sides predicted the ruling would weaken the cases of residents in other communities fighting similar Coastal Commission rulings.

″We’re very disappointed,″ said Charles E. Greenberg, Whalers’ Village Club attorney. ″I’m sure this will affect many of the homeowners up and down the coast - both those now in court and those who might face this in the future.″

Jamee Jordan Patterson, the deputy state attorney general who represented the Coastal Commission, said: ″A lot of people are going to realize, ’Why fight?‴

Other exclusive oceanfront communities in Southern California also have sued the commission in the past over similar issues. Ventura is 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

California law holds that beaches up to the mean high water mark are public. The commission’s order was to provide access to that public strip of beach.

The Coastal Commission contends that sea walls and similar shoreline structures interfere with ocean currents and so cause erosion at nearby beaches.

The residents appealed the commission ruling and won the support of a county Superior Court judge who found the order amounted to unlawful taking of private property. But a state appellate court overturned that decision, and the California Supreme Court declined to review the case - prompting the unsuccessful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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