California Court of Appeal Upholds Multimillion-Dollar Penalty Against Homeowner Blocking Public Access to the Coast

June 2021

Environmental, Energy & Climate Change Law and Regulation Reporter, Volume 1, Number 9

In April, California’s Second District Court of Appeal upheld the California Coastal Commission’s (“Commission”) over $ 4 million penalty assessed against homeowners who refused to remove a gate, deck, and stairway that encroached into an easement dedicated to the California Coastal Conservancy (“Conservancy”). This penalty was upheld even though the offending structures were constructed by a previous owner of the property and had been in place for decades. The plaintiffs in Lent v. California Coastal Commission, 62 Cal.App.5th 812 (2021) challenged the fine, which was much higher than the $950,000 penalty recommended by Commission staff on multiple grounds, including inadequate notice of the penalty amount, abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission in imposing the penalty, and constitutional grounds, among other arguments.

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