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Lunada ‘Bay Boys’ surfer gang hit with another class-action lawsuit

A Malibu woman who alleges she was doused with beer and threatened by a group of territorial surfers in Palos Verdes Estates is among a group of plaintiffs who filed suit against the so-called Lunada Bay Boys this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In a class-action suit filed Thursday, Diana Milena Reed and fellow plaintiffs allege that the Bay Boys have violated the California Coastal Act by blocking public access to a coveted stretch of sand by assaulting beachgoers, vandalizing their property and threatening to kill them. 

The city of Palos Verdes Estates and the city’s police chief, Jeff Kepley, are also named as defendants in the 38-page lawsuit. According to the plaintiffs, the city tolerated the alleged behavior and police did little to stop it.

The lawsuit is related to a federal class-action suit, filed by the same parties in March, that asks a judge to require the wealthy city to investigate and prosecute crimes by the Bay Boys. 

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A federal judge declined to hear plaintiffs’ claims regarding the Coastal Act, a state law, documents show. The state-court lawsuit was filed this week to address those allegations.

“The plaintiffs brought the lawsuits to open access to a beach that was stolen 40 years ago by a bunch of trust-fund bullies,” Victor Otten, an attorney on the case, said in an email Friday. “The plaintiffs are confident they will succeed in making Lunada Bay public again.”

Ed Richards, an attorney with the Los Angeles firm Kutak Rock LLP who is representing Palos Verdes Estates, said the lawsuit’s claims regarding the Coastal Act are unfounded.

“It’s always easy to make allegations and file a lawsuit ... but there is simply no basis to these allegations that the city is failing to enforce the law,” Richards said.

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He called police “very proactive” in monitoring the beach.

For years, beachgoers have accused the Bay Boys, some of whom are reportedly middle-aged, of bombarding non-locals with dirt clods, slashing their tires and assaulting them in the water — sometimes coordinating attacks with walkie-talkies and group text messages — to keep them away from the prized waves.

In 2014, someone who tried to organize a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at Lunada Bay was met in the water by a Bay Boy in blackface and an Afro wig, according to the state lawsuit. The Bay Boy stated: “You don’t pay enough taxes to be here,” the suit says.

Reed said in the suit that she was assaulted earlier this year in retaliation for appearing in photographs accompanying a Times article about the problems. The named plaintiffs in the suit include Reed, El Segundo police Officer Cory Spencer and the Coastal Protection Rangers, a nonprofit group.

Police reports over the years show that an illegal stone “fort” occupied by the Bay Boys near the water’s edge has repeatedly been a site of alleged drug and alcohol use that victims said fueled harassment of outsiders. 

The crudely built structure was allegedly constructed years ago by the group and used as a party spot and outpost for coordinating harassment of outsiders. It features stone and concrete masonry, paved steps, seating areas and a fire pit. 

The California Coastal Commission in June threatened legal action to force Palos Verdes Estates to improve public access at Lunada Bay and told the city to submit a plan to either dismantle the fort or obtain permits for it. 

In July, city officials voted to have the structure dismantled with jackhammers and to have the pieces carried away. The City Council’s unanimous decision came despite opposition from residents who told them “not to buckle” in the face of the Coastal Commission. One resident, urging the city to preserve the structure, said the Bay Boys are “not a gang. It is a club.”

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On July 14, after the vote, the City Council said in a statement that officials were processing requirements to demolish the structure. 

“In the meantime, the City and its Police Department maintain their focus on ensuring all public areas, including Lunada Bay, remain safe, accessible and enjoyed by all who live, visit and work in the community,” the council wrote. 

City officials have criticized the media, saying news outlets fueled reports that they and police officers were ignoring criminal activity.

“Recent images and statements cast by the news media are false and misleading,” Mayor Jennifer King said in a May letter to the editor of the Palos Verdes Peninsula News. “We encourage the public not to jump to conclusions based on a few statements taken out of context or a few false inflammatory allegations raised in a lawsuit.”

The city, she wrote, is one of the safest communities in Southern California. 

 

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson

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Times staff writer Garrett Therolf contributed to this story.

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UPDATES:

3:40 p.m.: This article was updated with an interview with attorney Ed Richards.

This article was originally published at 1:25 p.m.


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