Coastal Commission overstepped authority on Oceano Dunes, judge rules

July 19, 2023


The California Coastal Commission overstepped its authority when it voted to phase out off-road vehicle usage at the Oceano Dunes by 2025, according to a July 19 court ruling. The Coastal Commission also violated the law when it shut down the Pier Avenue entrance to the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area.

In March 2021, the Coastal Commission voted unanimously to phase out off-road vehicle usage at the Oceano Dunes over three years and to close the Pier Avenue entrance by July 1, 2022.

At the time, commissioners argued vehicle usage at the dunes harms the environment and does not comply with the California Coastal Act. The commissioners also cited environmental justice as a justification for closing the park to vehicles.

Friends of Oceano Dunes, a nonprofit that represents approximately 28,000 supporters of off-road recreation, previously indicated it was 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. After each win, Friends of Oceano Dunes has successfully sought court costs and attorney fees.

A week before the March 2021 Coastal Commission vote, Thomas Roth, the San Francisco-based attorney for Friends of Oceano Dunes, sent a letter accusing the Coastal 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 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.”

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Tana Coates ruled Wednesday in favor of Friends of the Oceano Dunes.

“The court finds that in permanently prohibiting all off-highway vehicles in the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area, the Coastal Communion acted ‘without, or in excess of its jurisdiction,'” Coates wrote in her ruling. “The court also finds the Coastal Commission violated CEQA by deciding to close the Pier Avenue entrance to the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area without evaluating how it would impact vehicle miles traveled.”

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Oh goodie, the overgrown children from the valley will continue to have their playground.

I support it as long as they spend a few bucks in Groovy Grover.

A David vs. Goliath moment. A great win for the little guy against tyrannical over-reach.

Ballot initiative to have the Coastal Commission either disbanded or to be required to do the job that the original voter approval mandated for!!!

The Coastal Commission has garnered the worst reputation of any Government agency:(

Not sure about your “worst” comment, the APCD, PUC or almost any CSD could win worst title

Justice…. you recognize it when you see it… unelected people should never make laws or pass regulation…..

The Coastal Commissioners are all ELECTED in some California jurisdiction as a city council person, a mayor, etc. Then appointed by the Governor to the Commission.

But I agree they have too much power and mostly swayed by staff who are not elected.

“Then appointed by”…. thanks for making my point….

The businesses on Pier Ave. and all the people who enjoy driving their vehicles on the beach will love the decision. Oh, I loveeeee it too! How many vehicles and people go on the beach?

As a 50 year dune recreationalist this is GREAT news. Judge Coates followed the law and made an excellent common sense ruling. Kudos to the Friends of Oceano Dunes for pushing back against this radicalized out of control Coastal Commission.

The only issue I have is that my father had the fifth dune buggy on that beach in 1938 much more than 40 years of use that was not illegal.

The California Coastal Commission can pound sand.

Good! Now, if we could just disband this stupid panel of people haters.

Remember, this is the same panel that wants to stop people from using public property, but forces private property owners to allow access to the public!