The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Thursday to order a Laguna Beach couple to pay $1 million in fines and tear down a sea wall that officials say protects a single mansion from erosion at the expense of the public beach in front.
The decision prioritizes the rights of beachgoers over those of property owners, easing concerns among coastal advocates that the case could prompt more sea wall construction in a state that has long limited such reinforcement to emergencies.
“The sea wall needs to come down immediately,” Commissioner Donne Brownsey said. “This case is important in and of itself, but it’s also important as a harbinger of the issues that we’re going to have to face because of sea level rise, because of the certain knowledge that we now have that sea walls are destructive to our beaches.”
The vote came the same day the commission passed a resolution to ensure that sea walls are “only permitted if necessary and if no less environmentally damaging feasible alternative is available.” Sea walls can obstruct the natural flow and replenishment of sand, leading to smaller and smaller beaches until the sand disappears altogether.
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