Coastal Commission loses legal battle to Friends of Oceano Dunes

August 1, 2020


A multiyear contentious legal battle ended Friday with a judge ordering the California Coastal Commission to pay Friends of the Oceano Dunes $252,726 for attorney’s fees and costs.

In late 2017, the commission approved a large expansion of dust control measures at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area without complying with the California Environmental Policy Act (CEQA). Friends sued to block the approval and won that battle in Feb. 2020.

Laws permit attorneys who undertake cases with a “significant public benefit” to request attorney’s fees if they win. Attorneys for the commission argued that friend’s court victory was technical, and as such they should not have to pay fees and costs. The court rejected the commission’s argument.

In addition, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Tana Coates noted significant and substantive violations of environmental law and did not “simply order the commission to make a clarification of the permit,” as the commission argued.

Friend’s of the Dunes President Jim Suty said he is extremely pleased with the judge’s decision, but that he is concerned over the commission’s continued attempts to close the Oceano Dunes to off-road vehicles.

At a meeting in July, the commission approved a smaller dust control project. Friends responded by filing another lawsuit against the commission, arguing the agency still is not complying with CEQA.

Suty has also questioned why California State Parks is not standing up to the commission and “their continued abuse of power.” State Parks is responsible for protecting and managing the park.

Friends of Oceano Dunes is a not-for-profit corporation expressly created to preserve camping and off-highway vehicle recreation at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Friends represents approximately 28,000 members and users of the Oceano Dunes.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

APCD leaders get every Friday off. Let’s stop the spending now!

Better cash the check quick, the State’s out of money.

It’s the public sector/government way, screw up doing your job, let the taxpayers pay any fines and penalties, not be held accountable, receive outrageous salaries and benefits and then retire on a broken bankrupt pension system.

Finally a decision that makes sense. Thank you Judge Coates. Its time for the State Parks to tell the Coastal Commission to pound sand and Open the Dunes NOW!!!!

Great news! Defund the Costal Commission statewide. They are corrupt as they come, and have never had a sense of fairness, transparency or honesty about any of them. Political hacks of the left is all they are.

Bravo for the win of attorney’s fees. Dock the Coastal Commission staff paychecks for the money. The defenders of reasonable use of the dunes are brave and energetic. If you’ve ever given of your sweat money and time to a non-profit, you know of the heart and soul that can be consumed by your efforts, phone calls, attendance, strategizing. It’s a lot of dedication and sweat.

Of course the CC and Air Board fascists who act with imperialistic abandon will still resist reasonable use of the dunes as precious coastal recreational opportunity. The well-intentioned birders will likely fight with single-minded, take no prisoners ruthlessness if there’s a single plover nesting within two klicks of any campsite One hopes that the majority of fences come down and humans can be again allowed to recreate on what the plovers scientifically do not need nor occupy.