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State realtors association joins seawall fight in Encinitas

ENCINITAS — One of the state’s more powerful property rights advocacy groups has thrown its support behind the residents fighting the state Coastal Commission in a critical Supreme Court case.

The case, Lynch v. California Coastal Commission, will ultimately determine whether the Coastal Commission has the authority to impose time limits on seawall permits.

The two families on the other side of the legal debate have argued the Coastal Commission has overstepped its authority and its actions infringe upon their rights as private property owners.

The California Association of Realtors is filing legal briefs in support of homeowners Barbara Lynch and Thomas Frick, who appealed the case to the State Supreme Court after an appeals court sided with the Coastal Commission and overturned their legal victory in the lower courts.

The Realtors Association, which represents the state’s 160,000 real estate brokers and sales people, previously urged the State Supreme Court to take up the case.

They believe the case has far-reaching implications both statewide and nationally.

The case “will negatively impact the marketability and values of thousands of properties in California and also serve to increase the length, complexity, and expense of real estate sale ad lease transactions in the state,” the association said in its request for the Supreme Court to hear the case.

The seawall along Grandview Beach, owned by homeowners Frick and Lynch, is at the heart of the legal battle.

Eight months ago, the state Court of Appeals voted to overturn a lower court’s ruling that the state commission overstepped its bounds when it required Lynch and Frick to reapply for a seawall permit after 20 years.

Frick and Lynch’s attorneys have argued that the Coastal Commission’s actions have amounted to a taking of their rights as private property owners, and that the state agency will use the 20-year clause to heap on additional regulations, or force the owners to remove it at that time.

The seawall case dates back to 2010, when the families applied for a permit to build a 100-foot-tall, state-of-the-art concrete seawall to replace their aging wooden one and rebuild the private staircase from their homes to the beach below, after storms in 2010 largely wiped out both structures.

The city of Encinitas approved their applications, but the Coastal Commission stepped in and denied the permit for the staircase and would only allow the families to rebuild the wall with the 20-year stipulation, to which the families agreed.