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Q&A: Crackdown on ‘Bay Boys’ surfer gang begins after years of complaints

With police watching from the bluff, a surfer heads out at Lunada Bay with a small group of fellow outsiders in February, a challenge to the "Bay Boys," who are accused of using intimidation to keep the spot to themselves.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

For years, there have been complaints about a so-called surfer gang in the Lunada Bay area of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

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

But over the last year, the issue has received more focus, and some action was taken this week.

What happened this week?

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Palos Verdes Estates officials voted to have a stone “fort” used by the group dismantled and removed under a plan approved by the city’s elected leaders Tuesday.

The council’s unanimous decision came despite strong opposition by residents, who urged their elected leaders “not to buckle” in the face of the California Coastal Commission. That agency has urged the city to remove the unpermitted facility or seek approval by proposing a package of measures to improve public access and reduce harassment.

Police reports over the years show that the illegal three-decade-old structure has been a common site of alleged drug and alcohol use.

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What other actions are possible?

A federal lawsuit targets the city of Palos Verdes Estates, asking a judge to require it to investigate and prosecute complaints of crimes committed by the surfer gangs.

City officials have denied allegations that they’ve ignored the complaints.

Was there support to keep the fort up?

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Yes, dozens of residents said the community has embraced the site as a community landmark, and some said it had been a beloved location for weddings and memorial services.

The Bay Boys who congregate there are “not a gang. It is a club,” said resident Pat Stolz, who urged the city to preserve the structure. “We don’t want crowds. Think twice when someone comes in and tells you what to do.”

Another resident, Stanton Hunton, said the Bay Boys “are very pleasant people” and urged the council, “don’t succumb to the Coastal Commission.”

Hunton said the city should also block a Coastal Commission proposal to improve public access with better pathways, benches, viewing binoculars and other amenities.

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“Why the city would allow the Coastal Commission to strong-arm it to allow in nonresidents who don’t know the perils of that cliff is beyond me,” he said.

Wasn’t there a video showing Bay Boys in action?

Yes, last year, the Guardian newspaper published this hidden camera record.

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