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State officials may fine or sue Palos Verdes Estates over public access to site favored by surfer gang

Lunada Bay
An illegal stone fort used by the Bay Boys surfer gang is the subject of a dispute between the California Coastal Commission and Palos Verdes Estates.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The California Coastal Commission on Friday threatened legal action to force Palos Verdes Estates to improve public access at Lunada Bay, the site of one of the state’s best surf breaks as well as a group of aggressively territorial surfers widely known as the Bay Boys, who aim to keep outsiders away.  

If the city fails to comply with state requirements, the agency said it could “consider all options to remedy the situation,” according to a letter from enforcement officer Jordan Sanchez released Friday. 

Noaki Schwartz, a Coastal Commission spokeswoman, said the agency remained hopeful that the city would comply without further intervention but that options include financial penalties or a lawsuit against the city. 

In a letter to the city manager, Sanchez said “your latest submittal did not include a response regarding the public access improvements we suggested as a step toward resolving the situation.” 

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The suggested steps, Sanchez said, might include “improvements to trails, signage, benches and viewing binoculars, [which] could both clarify the public nature of the area, and help educate all parties about the public rights here, and thereby defuse conflicts.” 

But the city’s most recent response promised only a beach clean-up. 

“All indications from reports we have received and from our last meeting suggest that you are not moving forward with these improvements,” Sanchez said. 

The state agency also reiterated a July 6 deadline for the city to submit a proposal for improved public access and a plan to either dismantle or obtain necessary permits for an illegal stone “fort” built and used by members of the Bay Boys. 

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The city issued a letter this week saying it would not meet the state deadline to draw up plans for the structure. 

City Manager Anton Dahlerbruch said he instead 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 he has been unable to resolve problems over tearing it down.  

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

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 using walkie-talkies.

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.

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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 that officials be required to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by the surfers.

The Coastal Commission might join the lawsuit if the city does not improve access, Schwartz said.

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @gtherolf

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