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Surfer gang's beach 'fort' must be torn down or get a permit, state says, but city slow to act

Palos Verdes Estates issued a letter this week saying that the city will not meet a state deadline to make plans for an illegal stone “fort” used by a group of aggressively territorial surfers widely known as the “Lunada Bay Boys.” 

The city’s statement came in response to a letter the Coastal Commission sent on Tuesday telling the city that it has until July 6 to develop a plan to tear down the crudely built structure or begin a permitting process that would include measures to improve access to one of the state’s most coveted – and hostile – surf breaks. 

Coastal Commission Enforcement Officer Jordan Sanchez wrote that it was unlikely that he would be able to approve a permit for the fort because of its location on public land, but he said a smaller structure might be possible if the city takes steps to improve public access. 

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The city, he said, should take make a plan that "clearly identifies, through signage at major streets, at the coastline, and on trail maps, the structure as a public amenity and open to all.” 

But city manager Anton Dahlerbruch instead promised only a beach cleanup and said he hoped to develop a preliminary plan for the fort by September – seven months after the coastal commission first raised the issue, and two months past the state’s deadline. 

The simple structure is made of stone and concrete, and Dahlerbruch said the problems it creates have thus far exceeded his ability to solve. 

“The complexity of the situation has presented no easy or immediate answer," he wrote. 

Noaki Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the commission, said the agency had no immediate response to Dahlerbruch’s letter of non-compliance. 

In internal correspondence obtained earlier this year by The Times through a public records request, Dahlerbruch told the affluent community’s city council that the Lunada Bay Homeowners Assn. was urging the city to focus on policing the bullying in hopes that "the existence and use of the patio becomes irrelevant."

A public records request for documents of the planning process to permit or tear it down yielded no documents. 

For decades, witnesses have accused the Bay Boys, some of whom are reportedly middle-aged, of bombarding outsiders with dirt clods, slashing their tires and assaulting them in the water -- sometimes coordinating the attacks with walkie-talkies.

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Police reports over the years show that the fort has repeatedly been a site of alleged drug and alcohol use that victims said fueled harassment of outsiders.  

One alleged victim said she was sexually harassed and doused with beer in retaliation for appearing in a news article about the problems.

Earlier this year, an El Segundo police officer who says he has been harassed by the Bay Boys joined other alleged victims in a class-action lawsuit.

The officer, Cory Spencer, and Diana Milena Reed, the alleged harassment victim, asked a federal judge to prevent members of the gang from congregating at Lunada Bay.

The suit also targets the city of Palos Verdes Estates, asking a judge to require officials to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by the surfers.

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garrett.therolf@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @gtherolf 

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