Dana Point sues California Coastal Commission over luxury development


Dana Point turned up the heat in its battle with the state over posted hours and locked gates at public access paths through a luxury bluff-top development by suing the California Coastal Commission.

The city contends the state panel has overstepped its authority by pushing the south Orange County city to open the pathways through the compound, which is perched on a promontory above a secluded stretch of coastline.

The city filed suit against the commission Monday, listing Headlands Reserve LLC, the developer of the gated community of 118 multimillion-dollar bluff-top homes, as a party of interest.

The Coastal Commission approved the 121-acre development known as The Strand at Headlands in 2004, but only after a decades-long fight between conservationists and the developer.

In the lawsuit, the city argues that the commission “acted in excess of its jurisdiction” and asks the court to halt the state’s attempts to force it to apply for a permit for the gates and posting hours. Only two of five access ways built through the development to Strand Beach, the lawsuit notes, have gates.

Coastal Commission officials declined comment specifically on the lawsuit, but said their position has been consistent.

“We want to see the gates pulled out to open up public access during the permit process,” said Andrew Willis, a Coastal Commission enforcement analyst.

City Atty. Patrick Muñoz declined comment Tuesday, writing in an e-mail that “as a policy the City typically does not comment on ongoing litigation matters.”

The gates and signs appeared late last year after the oceanfront lots started to sell for as much as $12 million. When the pathways opened in January, two of the pathways had gates and signs reading “Coastal Access (Limited to Sidewalk): 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.”

Surfers and conservationists have fought the restrictions, saying that they prevent access to one of Orange County’s great beaches.

“We’re dismayed to see the city act in a manner which is clearly not in the public interest, which would truly be served by maximizing public access for Dana Point residents and for visitors,” said Angela Howe, managing attorney for the Surfrider Foundation.

In March, the Dana Point City Council approved a “nuisance abatement ordinance” that ordered the nightime closure of trails to the beach because of an increase in criminal activities in Strand Vista Park.

After repeated warnings that the unpermitted gates and signs violated the Coastal Act, commissioners earlier this month voted to require the city to take down the signs and remove the gates and then apply for a permit if it wanted to put them back up.

The deadline for Dana Point to act was Monday, the same day the city filed suit.