Hagopian v. State (2nd Dist. 2014), 2014 WL 265517, involved a challenge to Coastal Commission permitting and enforcement authority brought by egregious Coastal Act violators. The plaintiffs purchased undeveloped coastal zone property in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles County (“Parcel 24”). At the time, L.A. County did not have a certified Local Coastal Program, and so the Coastal Commission was the coastal development permit issuing authority.
Parcel 24 was entitled with a Coastal Commission-issued coastal development permit for a 3,375 SF single-family residence, along with two other adjoining parcels. The plaintiffs began or completed construction on 8 structures on the combined property, built a second residence on Parcel 24, and “created commercial vineyards by removing substantial swaths of vegetation, grading and filling several areas, and installing an access road, a large solar panel array, and a pool and tennis court” – all without coastal development permits. The Coastal Commission instituted notice of violation proceedings and ultimately issued cease and desist and restoration orders.
The plaintiff put up very weak defenses in the administrative proceedings, but then appealed the Coastal Commission’s decision to the Superior Court, making some technical arguments that Los Angeles County had permitting authority under sections of the Coastal Act addressing temporary authority, and so the Coastal Commission orders were void.
The trial and appellate courts disagreed, however, and both affirmed the Coastal Commission’s decision. The court of appeal held that the Coastal Commission had proper authority because although the Commission had approved L.A. County’s land use plan for the Santa Monica Mountains, the Commission had yet to approve L.A. County’s local implementation plan for this area – and both elements are required for the Commission to approve a local entity’s local coastal program, which is required before the Commission may delegate permitting authority to a local entity. These rules are well-established, and it appears the plaintiffs spent a significant amount of money and caused significant delay in a legal effort that was doomed from the start.
©2014 Miles J. Dolinger. This article is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship.
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