Hanson Bridgett Secures Win For Coastal Access After Seven Years of Litigation
March 1, 2023 (San Francisco, CA) – On behalf of all beachgoers Hanson Bridgett LLP successfully secured a published opinion from the Court of Appeal, Second District, in Spencer v. Lunada Bay Boys and City of Palos Verdes Estates, the firm’s long-running pro bono effort to ensure public access to Lunada Bay, and ultimately all California beaches.
"We never gave up and could not be more pleased with the court’s precedent-setting decision,” said partner Kurt Franklin who led the Hanson Bridgett team. "It's been seven long years, and the Spencer v Lunada Bay Boys and City of Palos Verdes Estates opinion is a great victory for beach-access advocates everywhere. We want to thank the Coastal Commission staff and California AG’s office who supported our appeal with an amicus brief and argument."
Background on the Case
For more than 40 years, a stretch of a public beach in Los Angeles County known as Lunada Bay has been guarded by a group of well-to-do locals known as the Bay Boys who are dedicated to keeping the area to themselves. Their turf was marked by an illegal unpermitted Rock Fort – a masonry-and-wood hangout that served as a monument to their sense of entitlement. The Bay Boys served as an informal band of self-appointed violent security guards, and developed a cozy relationship with the City of Palos Verdes Estates.
Complicit in these troubles, the City long knew about the illegal Rock Fort, and the Bay Boys’ efforts to effectively privatize the City. As succinctly stated by former City Chief of Police Timm Browne, "People in the City do not like outsiders because they pay a price to live there and have beautiful views, so, they are protective of their community."
But Lunada Bay is a public beach, and California law guarantees that the public must be able to reach and use what it owns. On February 27, 2023, the court followed the California Coastal Act and agreed. Cities are not immune from the Act and must seek a permit for all physical structures on their property. Further, the court held that harassment and other conduct that directly interferes with access to the Pacific Ocean may qualify as unlawful “development” under the Coastal Act.
The Hanson Bridgett team was led by partner Kurt Franklin and included partners Gary Watt, Lisa Pooley, and Samantha Wolff; and senior counsel Sean Herman and Ellis Raskin. Victor J. Otten of Otten Law, P.C. acted as co-counsel.
About Hanson Bridgett LLP
Hanson Bridgett LLP is a full service AmLaw 200 law firm with more than 200 attorneys across California. Creating a diverse workforce by fostering an atmosphere of belonging and intentional support has been a priority at Hanson Bridgett since its founding in 1958. We are dedicated to creating an environment that provides opportunities for people with varied backgrounds, both for attorneys and administrative professionals. As the first law firm recognized as a certified B Corp, we are committed to the communities where our employees live and work and consider it part of our professional obligation to serve justice by encouraging and supporting pro bono and social impact work.