Coastal Commission votes to ban off-roading in three years at Oceano Dunes

March 19, 2021


The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to phase out off-road vehicle usage at the Oceano Dunes over the next three years.

Additionally, the commission voted to ban nighttime vehicle riding at the Oceano Dunes, with exceptions for certain circumstances like arriving at or leaving the park after dark. Furthermore, the Coastal Commission voted to close the Pier Avenue entrance to the dunes by July 1, 2022.

In deciding to phase out off-road activity, commissioners argued vehicle usage at the dunes harms the environment and does not comply with the California Coastal Act.

The Coastal Commission has also cited environmental justice as a justification for closing the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area. The commission determined the residents of Oceano and Nipomo, who are reportedly impacted by the dust, are largely underprivileged people of color.

Coastal Commission staff had recommended commissioners vote to phase out off-road vehicle access over the next five years and close State Parks’ Pier Avenue entrance by July 1, 2021. Commissioners amended the decision on phasing out off-road vehicle usage, shortening the timeline for banning off-roading at the park from five years to three years. The commission also decided to delay the closure of the Pier Avenue entrance by one year.

Friends of the Dunes, a nonprofit that represents approximately 28,000 supporters of off-road recreation, previously indicated it is ready to take legal action if either the Coastal Commission or California State Parks were to attempt to ban or reduce off-road vehicle usage at the dunes. The organization has successfully sued several state agencies, including the Coastal Commission, for failing to follow laws in their oversight of the dunes.

The Coastal Commission and State Parks have been battling for years over which agency will decide the future of off-roading at the Oceano Dunes. The parent agency for the two, the California Natural Resources Agency, has let the tussle continue for years even though the conflict has cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars and drawn threats of lawsuits.

State Parks argued it has legislative authority over the park and that the Coastal Commission has no jurisdiction to ban off-road vehicle usage, based on the California Coastal Act and other legislation. State Parks is tasked with protecting the state’s natural and cultural resources, as well as creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.

The Coastal Commission asserts it has authority over the Oceano Dunes based on the Coastal Act. The Coastal Commission plans and regulates the use of land and water in the coastal zone, including “activities that change the intensity of use of land or public access to coastal waters.”

State Parks and the Coastal Commission began fighting a decade ago when SLO County’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD) first claimed it had tied off-road vehicle traffic at the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area to higher levels of dust on the Nipomo Mesa, including a now-refuted claim that the dust contained dangerous levels of toxic crystalline silica.

Last week, Thomas Roth, the San Francisco-based attorney for Friends of the Dunes, sent a letter accusing the Coastal Commission of bias, overstepping its legislative authority and violating due process. While the Coastal Commission claims to have authority to reduce or eliminate off-roading at the park, Roth does not agree.

In 1975, the dunes were set aside for off-road vehicle recreation as part of the California Coastal Plan, which says off-road vehicle use “shall be permitted.”

“The Coastal Commission has jumped the shark,” Roth wrote in his letter. “It has no authority to direct State Parks to ban all OHV (off-highway vehicle) at a park expressly authorized for OHV use, especially where that use has lawfully existed for 40 years, and where the use predated even the creation of the Coastal Commission.”


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Regardless of the fact the Coastal Commision has been one of the most unConstitutional groups in existence, I really love this gibberish: “The Coastal Commission has also cited environmental justice as a justification for closing the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area. The commission determined the residents of Oceano and Nipomo, who are reportedly impacted by the dust, are largely underprivileged people of color.”

So let me get this right, if the residents weren’t “underprivileged people of color” then they wouldn’t have announced this closure? And what the heck is “environmental justice?”

Also, the dirty little secret here is the dunes blow dust whether there’s people using them or not.


Where do I send my donation to the Friends of the Dunes. The Coastal Commission is way out of line. Roth said it best.


Look up the website and send it in. Don’t forget PLF, the Pacific Legal Foundation which defends private property rights pro bono (without fee). Proud to say I’ve mailed small checks since the 80’s.

I decry the loss of freedom and motor recreation at the Dunes although blessed with a ranch to enjoy the dirt toys so haven’t hauled a quad or RZR to the dunes for decades. (So no actual dog in this fight, just passion for others to ride).

Other posters are correct that the appointed Comisars of the CCC should be subject to voter review. It’s totalitarianism despite pandemic shutdown air sampling proof that OHV’s do NOT generate a microparticle condition on the mesa.


Way overdue anyways. Now our beach can be enjoyed without the use of vehicles. We will say goodbye to the beer drinking, trash throwing yahoos that have turned our nice beach into a war zone. Way back when there were much fewer people and maybe a couple of dune buggies running up and down the beach it really wasn’t a problem but now with so many people it’s just dangerous. It will be interesting to see how our local economy will evolve to serve a different clientele that will no longer avoid Pismo Beach because of the rough reputation this place has earned from the off roaders. LIke many other things in California too many people and it just gets ruined.


Unelected bureaucrats doing the dirty work for elected officials that don’t have the guts to do themselves…the members of the coastal commission should be made to stand for election if they are going to sway this kind of power over the people…

Oceano just like every other city is recovering from a global pandemic shut down and this commission makes a statement like this?

Talk about tyrannical leadership….where are all of the constitutional lawyers in our country?…have they all been brainwashed by law schools?….this commission and its rulings should be dragged into the supreme court every time they speak until it is dissolved…..

Stop letting elected officials off the hook…if they want the dunes cut off to motorist let them come forth and say so publicly….

Maybe I should go back and get my law degree….just to see what kind of constitution evading and ignoring rubbish is being taught there….


This is very sad news for an iconic place of entertainment in our county. However, no true local can say we didn’t see it coming.

Over time those who chose to create a madhouse of the camp area and leave tons of trash and ride like idiots. With “parents” who refused to teach their young ones proper riding safety we began to see the decline of “what was” replaced with helicopters hauling people to trauma centers on a regular basis.

Now summer nights are similar to war zones I’m told with campers complaining of side-by-sides and strung out quads screaming through their quiet campsites in the middle of the night. Most locals get off the beach before dark to exchange all that for the warmth and safety of our homes.

We went from peaceful rangers quietly reminding everyone of the quiet time when necessary to packs of armed police patrolling….searching for infractions to write up…..multiple dog leash violations….wheelies down the beach…..exhibition of speed……all of which was just fine until our visitors began to take advantage of it.

Now we blame a panel of outsiders. Sad times!


Well said!


WOW , a major destruction of the economy of the 5 cities area and the highway route valley visitors use to visit the dunes .Pier avenue businesses will suffer the most . I still believe that if new residents moving into the area after selling their big city homes at big city prices ,will get their wishes fulfilled by developing the dunes into massive housing divisions for the rich.People doubt my beliefs but it has happened at almost every off road facility and racetracks in united states , it is occurring at a very fast pace right now everywhere.

As an example Spillway park Santa Maria and most recently Santa Maria Speedway which is now 90% a music venue. To add more Atascadero Speedway ,Mesa Marin Speedway ,Santa Maria Drag strip Ascot Speedway Grassvalley Speedway Paso Robles Fairgrounds track ,Hi mountain enduro race , Salainas Riverbed, Kaiser sand and gravel etc etc where all these have been closed, houses were built to either force out the venues or venues were forced out to build homes .All over USA everyday a handful of off road venues are eliminated its mind blowing to see


I wish we had the option to phase out the Coastal Commission in three years instead.


Of course they did, the woke supremacists.


Woke is when things change in a way that I don’t like.


Woke, is when things change that benefit nobody.


Although everyone saw this coming, it’s still pretty sobering. I am not an “off-roader”, but I still support intelligent use of the dunes. The ultra, anti-everything, pro nanny state left coupled with the fascist leaning progressives have won, ignoring science, economics and culture of the region. It should chill everyone to consider the economic impact of closure. And perhaps reasonable compromises can still occur, but I hope South County voters remember at election time.


What will be this economic impact I keep hearing about? Sure the ATV rental places are going to be impacted, but take an objective look at Pier Avenue. Compare that street and it’s businesses to any other street that leads to the beach in Central or Southern California. Even before COVID restaurants struggled or had closed. Most tourists don’t want to spend time or money on that street. Compare it to Pomeroy in Pismo or Cayucos? Why doesn’t Pier Avenue have a variety of flourishing businesses like those places? I think we will find out that the off roaders were actually the reason Oceano is underdeveloped.


You are going to have to build more hotels and restaurants and allow vacation rentals….something tells me the same folks that want the dunes shut off from vehicles won’t like that either….


Or else that’s the plan and they’ll get their cut