Cross appeal filed in battle over Oceano Dunes

August 26, 2023


In response to the California Coastal Commissions appeal of a trial court ruling that it does not have the authority to ban off-road vehicle recreation on the Oceano Dunes, Friends of Oceano Dunes filed a cross appeal arguing the trial court erred in its rulings on camping and other secondary issues.

In March 2021, the Coastal Commission voted unanimously to phase out off-road vehicle usage at the Oceano Dunes over three years and to move the camping area. At the time, commissioners argued vehicle usage at the dunes harms the environment and does not comply with the California Coastal Act.

Friends then filed four lawsuits against the Coastal Commission that were later consolidated. And while San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Tana Coates ruled the commission had overstepped its authority when it banned vehicle recreation on the dunes, she denied several of Friends’ secondary arguments.

For example, Judge Coates did not find the commission’s limitations on camping unlawful.

“Yet, evidence before the trial court presented by State Parks showed that the location where the commission would allow camping can barely fit 100 camping sites, and would create congestion and safety issues,” according to Friends. “Even the commission’s vice chair questioned the wisdom of such an action by the commission at the March 2021 administrative hearing.”

The commission opposition to Judge Coates’ decision and Friends cross appeal will be heard in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

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This gets to the hypocrisy of both State Parks and the Coastal Commission. Parks has been drastically reducing the number of campers allowed at Oceano Dunes, kowtowing to truth-challenged SLO air district by covering over prime camping areas in the dunes with orange plastic fences and “vegetation plots” right along the shoreline, where there never was vegetation. In so doing they are restricting what Parks once proudly offered: affordable access to recreational opportunity for all. The Coastal Commission underscores that by contradicting its own fundamental mission of providing access to the coast for all. Instead it is access only for those who develop high dollar hotels along the coast that provide access only for guests who can afford those hotels. Oh, yes, maybe there is a thin, hidden and labyrinthine walkway between structures that provides access for the doggedly determined. But really that’s there so that CC members can boast about their wonderful access-providing deeds they accomplish as they sip wine and enjoy the sun lowering to the sea from behind glass screens at said hotels.

Well said, Downypaso. Perceptive and insightful with a good grasp on both history and hypocrisy!