I testified before the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee this morning about the potential fiscal impacts of AB 1129. PLF was joined in its opposition by thousands of coastal homeowners represented by the non-profit Coastal Rights Coalition, which was formed by affected property owners to lobby against AB 1129 and future policies that undermine the right to use and protect coastal property in California.
In addition, there was opposition voiced by the California Association of Realtors, the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, the California Chamber of Commerce, and the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association.
The California Coastal Act requires the Coastal Commission to grant a permit for seawalls or other shoreline protective devices when necessary to protect “existing structures” against erosion or other natural hazards. AB1129 will redefine “existing structure” to include only structures in existence prior to January 1, 1977. This would strip vital property rights to shoreline protection from thousands of property owners along the California coastline. We highlighted the significant litigation and takings costs this could impose on state and local governments.
As I mentioned in my comments, the Coastal Commission has long interpreted the “existing structure” language in Section 30235 of the Coastal Act to mean structures existing at the time a property owner applies for a seawall permit. As recently as 2006, the Commission defended this interpretation in Court, writing that they were “not aware of a single instance in the history of the Coastal Act in which [the Commission] has determined that existing structures in section 30235 refers only to structures that predated the Coastal Act.”
Today, they asserted the opposite, that the legislative codification of this change is just to provide clearer notice to property owners of the proper definition of the act. But there are about 30 years of lawfully permitted coastal property owners who acted in the reasonable reliance of the previous interpretation of existing structures.
Protection of one’s property is a fundamental and inalienable right under Article I, Section I of the California Constitution. And Article I, Section 19 provides that just compensation is required when private property is taken or damaged for public use. PLF believes that potentially thousands of homeowners could eventually have claims for damage to their property if they are denied coastal protective devices. We highlighted these potential costs to the Appropriations Committee. The committee placed the bill on hold, so we will have to wait to see how the assemblymembers vote.