Lawsuit challenges Coastal Commission’s authority over the Oceano Dunes

April 17, 2021


Friends of the Oceano Dunes accuses the California Coastal Commission of violating environmental laws while claiming to be a lead agency when it is not, in a lawsuit filed Monday. The suit challenges the commission’s authority to ban off-road vehicle riding at the Oceano Dunes over the next three years.

The lawsuit disputes the Coastal Commission’s finding that it has sovereignty over projects managed by California State Parks, a sister agency. State Parks is tasked with protecting the state’s natural and cultural resources, as well as creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), only the lead state agency has the principal responsibility to approve a project, according to the lawsuit. And when more than one public agency is involved, the agency tasked with creating and implementing a project is the lead agency, which there can be only one.

In late 2020, State Parks released to the public and the Coastal Commission a draft public works plan and a draft environmental impact report of proposed changes to the Ocean Dunes State Recreational Area.

For nearly three years, the Coastal Commission led the public to believe that off-road vehicle use and camping would be permitted at the Oceano Dunes, and the existing park entrances would remain open. Then over the final 22 days of the process, the commission substituted prior plans with bans on off-roading and camping, as well as the closure of the Pier Avenue entrance, without holding any formal hearing on the matter, Friends of the Dunes argues.

“The Coastal Commission’s “bait and switch” created great confusion among the public, other governmental entities and agencies, elected officials, and several of the Coastal Commissioners themselves,” according to the lawsuit. “State Parks, caught totally off guard, reacted like a deer in the headlights.”

In its pending lawsuit against the Coastal Commission, Friends of the Oceano Dunes also accuses the Coastal Commission of violating CEQA by not considering the impacts of stopping off-road vehicle usage at the park, and not following stable project description mandates.

Friends of the Oceano Dunes is a nonprofit that represents approximately 28,000 supporters of off-road recreation. The organization has successfully sued state and local government agencies, including the Coastal Commission, over past regulatory actions related to the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area.

Jim Suty, president of Friends of the Oceano Dunes, said this is the first of multiple lawsuits his organization plans to file regarding the Coastal Commission’s decision to ban off-road vehicle usage. Because of limited time requirements, the nonprofit filed the CEQA suit prior to the other complaints.

Before the Coastal Commission’s meeting on the dunes, Thomas Roth, the San Francisco-based attorney for Friends of the Dunes, sent a letter accusing the commission of bias, overstepping its legislative authority and violating due process.

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 off-highway vehicles at a park expressly authorized for off-highway vehicle 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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The C.C.C is nothing more than a radical left-wing self-serving group of elitist who have over stepped their authority. They are moved by their greed for power and control over all just like those politicians that support them and the party they all represent. I hope this lawsuit is just the beginning that will start to reign in those unelected commissions that are so destructive and comfortable taking away the freedoms and rights they have no business ruling on. The commission members do not fairly represent ALL citizens of this state. They rule with threats and intimidation which are actions of a group of unethical and cowardly people who no nothing about fairness or a desire to be fair to all. I look forward to the filing of each additional lawsuit to come, and will support everyone of them. It is absolutely wrong with what they have morphed into. Kind of reminds what we see in SLO County Waste Management Board.

Adam Trask

The Commission is appointed by the duly elected officials of this state. 4 by the governor, 4 by the Senate Rules Committee and 4 by the Speaker of the Assembly. So, yes, they do represent ALL citizens. Don’t like it? Work for politicians you think would allow such a beach, which is the only one on the West Coast where you can drive your vehicles of mayhem. Good luck!


You voted for the pu##y grabber with how many wives, payments to porn stars and 10,000 Lies and counting who tried to rule with threats and intimidation which are actions of a group of unethical and cowardly people who know nothing about fairness or a desire to be fair to all. It is absolutely wrong with what they have morphed into.

“no reasonable person” would have believed the lies from the GQP.


I never voted for Bill Clinton or Andrew Cuomo


If you want to make laws and rules for the people to abide by you should have to stand for elections…..


Friends of the Oceano Dunes aka Valley People Who Trash OUR Coastline. The valley folks should build a track on one their vacant strip mall sites.


“OUR”? I used to think the state was open to all of us, but it seems the coastal elites have another plan. Well, if “your” beaches are closed to us, does that mean the coastal people are not allowed inland? Next time you want to trash Yosemite or Death Valley, remember that you’re restricted based upon where you live.

Every time I go to the beach, I pick up a bag of trash left by the locals that also frequent “your” beach. You’re welcome.


I for one, appreciate all the things “Valley People” do for us! They support our Hotels and Restaurants, they give us “Coastal People” jobs so we can live here, without the “Valley People” we wouldn’t have much food to eat now would we?


You sound like those who want to seal off our southern border so “those people” don’t come into the USA, but my guess is you are only for certain restrictions that you approve of.


Now you’re comparing our Valley Neighbors to illegal aliens? Nice. There is a big difference between Hwy 101 and the Southern National Border…


I’d be curious to know if any members of the Coastal Commision are in cahoots with the owners of the proposed privately owned off road facility on the eastern edge of the dunes .I have stated it before many times if the dunes are closed to off roaders …there will be very large high end housing divisions built ….Folks said never would happen in Morro Bay hmm ….Well starting at the steam fired ex electric plant ( on the dunes ) on the bay head north all the way to the Morro Strand State Campground the city yard and sewer plant are on dunes the high school is on the dunes and there is about 300 homes built on the dunes ….The only times in last 47 years I have camped and rode the oceano dunes is during the week not on weekends and not on holidays its never been overcrowded and is quite peaceful


Tell me you don’t know the meaning of the pop culture reference “Jumping the Shark”, without actually SAYING you don’t know the meaning of the pop culture reference “Jumping the Shark”. LOLZ.

The phrase is “Jumping the GUN”, but much like Kimberley Potter, these folks don’t know the difference between a gun and pretty much any other item which is not, in fact, a gun.

FoOD has made so many allegations and has deflected so much from the very real societal and environmental issues surrounding the area and Oceano itself.

1) “But the dunes-riding businesses will fold”: Yeah. It’s called progress and change.

We used to ride horses everywhere around here but now we don’t and we don’t have near the amount of horse-centric commerce available. Those didn’t get a bail-out.

Three wheeled ATCs used to be the norm and those got phased out. I don’t recall protests and general outrage on behalf of that division of Honda.

2) “But, but, but the DISABLED and other-abled people need the dunes open for access to the beach”.

Where were the FoOD folks protesting and fighting for better and more accessible parking and beach ramp access for them in the last 40 years?

“But local businesses financially benefit from the visitors”.

Yet Fin’s profits INCREASED in 2020, over 2019 and the dunes were completely shut down to all motorized activity.

“Well our money helps Oceano directly!”

That’s my favorite lie of all. The part of Oceano that has the most advanced and modern infrastructure is the area around the dunes entrance. When the corner of 24th and Paso Robles has the same level of sidewalks, streetlights and road upgrades as Old Juan’s gets to enjoy, let’s talk. When the Dune riders are in Oceano proper, cleaning alleys and neighborhood alongside the residents and not just Johnny Do-Gooding by picking up their own trash they leave on the beach, let’s talk. When they don’t buy their groceries and gas before they even get here because our area is “too expensive”, I’ll put my ears on.

Until then, it’s all smoke and mirrors untruths.


1) Horses didn’t go away because someone didn’t like the smell of horse poo and got some government agencies to ban them. They were replaced with something better by popular demand.

2) if you check FoOD’s Facebook page, you will find members of other abled communities promoting vehicular access to the Dunes. It happened.

I’ve spent plenty on food and fuel in the community. Do you think we all carry enough fuel to drive from the valley to the coast on a single tank? I always fill a mostly empty tank at Oceano gas stations. Nor am I going to carry a hot meal from Fresno to Oceano. I visit local restaurants after a long day on the beach, before a long drive home.

Let’s not forget that the off road community is big on pack it in, pack it out. Many of us drive out with other people’s trash in our bags. I guarantee you that many of us are picking up the local’s trash as well.


I always fill a mostly empty tank at Oceano gas stations.

Tell me all about the Oceano gas stations you pull your RV into, to gas up. I’m just DYING to learn about those!

We have one gas station and it’s not big enough for any normal-sized RV to pull into. We have one little grocery store and it is far from a regular occurrence to see any RV parked there.

Putting sales tax money into the coffers of AG, Grover and Pismo isn’t putting sh*t in Oceano coffers.

And as for the gas purchase fallacy, we ALL, financially support the dunes (that less than one percent of one percent of us use) when gas is bought in the entire state.

Again – Oceano proper, where the bulk of the residents live and attend school, gets zippidy NADA in infrastructure support. We don’t have sidewalks and adequate street lighting on the non-tourist side of the tracks.

Educate yourself on our area before you spout off, because you really don’t know what you’re talking about.


I don’t see a “snowball’s chance in Hell” of succeeding against the Coastal Commission. They are unbelievably powerful. If successful against the Coastal Commission, this could be precedent setting to erode and remove all power that the Commission has, including oversight of all coastal property, including its regulation of Diablo Canyon Power Plant operations and land, and all other land along the coast, opening the door for uncontrolled commercial development, turning our gorgeous coastline into another high-rise hotel and golf-course infested Miami Beach, Florida, and Honolulu, Hawaii. The Coastal Commission will protect the Dunes, and all other pristine coastal land, tooth & nail at all costs. Be prepared to spend many, many $ millions fighting them, only to lose.


It’s not about eroding the power of the Coastal Commission, it’s about preventing them from overstepping their bounds. I could easily see this setting a precedent for the Coastal Commission to start abusing their authority in the name of a unilateral agenda.

Kevin Rice

Lol! Friends and their counsel have won several lawsuits against the KKKalifornia KKKoastal KKKommission. None of your doomsday allegations are remotely based in fact.

Cthulhu Colander

Your response is so deluded. Do you actually believe that money doesn’t control everything? Comparisons to Miami Beach and Honolulu are amusing. Do you grow your own marijuana? For personal use obviously… How should we employ all the workers from Diablo Canyon?


In case you missed the plans of the Oceano Development Council, your hotels are coming. Look a little farther north up the beach, if you want to see the future of Oceano, if the CCC has it’s way.