Hastings Law Journal


Jenni Khuu


Seawalls and other shoreline protective devices alter natural shoreline conditions and result in dramatic beach loss. For this reason, the California Coastal Act of 1976 promulgated a series of prohibitions and requirements, forbidding coastal development that would require shoreline protection. On January 15, 2004, the California Coastal Commission approved commercial and residential development of promontories. The area, a landslide complex, cannot naturally sustain development. The existing seawall in its current state cannot support proposed development either. Nevertheless, the Coastal Commission approved the project, along with a new seawall to stabilize it. How did the proposal get past the Coastal Act's prohibition of coastal development requiring shoreline protection? The Commission found a loophole in section 3o6Io, which allows "repair and maintenance" of an existing seawall to circumvent the permit process, thereby taking it outside the reach of the Coastal Act's pertinent provisions. Ironically, "repair and maintenance" as approved in Dana Point will require excavating the existing seawall foundation, realigning the seawall five to ten feet landward, reconstructing the seawall itself, and adding a significant amount of new material. The Commission incredulously stretched the definition of "repair and maintenance" to practically render the Coastal Act ineffective. This Note concludes that Section 30610 is a loophole in the Coastal Act's prohibition against seawalls and argues that this "repair and maintenance" loophole must be repaired.

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