.Rio Del Mar HOA Blocks Path Again and Sues Coastal Commission

Coastal Commission is assessing all options to reopen path

Disgruntled home owners put up large new fences blocking access to an embattled beachside walkway that the homeowner’s claim the public has no right to access.

The powerful, quasi-judicial California Coastal Commission says otherwise. 

“Here at the commission our goal is not to have the public climbing any fences,” said Robert Moddelmog, enforcement agent of the Coastal Commission.

The new fences come after Judge Timothy Volkmann ruled in favor of the HOA on December 22, granting them an injunction on the fines and the order to take down the fencing, while the litigation is ongoing. Penalties of $6,000 per day for each violation were paused too.

The Rio Del Mar HOA and Singh and Puri (owners of 202 Beach Dr.) sued the Coastal Commission for overstepping its jurisdiction when it levied its $5.3 million dollar fine and ordered it to remove fencing blocking the walkway.

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In their argument to Judge Volkmann, the HOA holds up the judge’s 2022 decision as evidence in its favor, which established the HOA’s ownership of the walkway and ruled that the county had wrongfully torn down fencing in 2018. 

The lawyers for the HOA stress that the history of the walkway shows no evidence that the county ever paid for the upkeep of the path. 

The Coastal Commission sees the question of ownership as irrelevant, pointing to the 1980 coastal design permit (CDP) that created a right of way for the public. 

But the HOA says the CDP does not contain any language about “public access.” Thus the history of private ownership wins out.

“People get away with their violations for a long time and they think that is normal. They think they are always going to get away with it,” said Robert Moddelmog, enforcer for the Coastal Commission. 

Moddelmog said the Coastal Commission is working with the California Attorney General’s office, and is considering its options, including a counter-suit against the HOA. 

Most cases involving the Coastal Commission are settled with public access restored, according to Moddelmog. Separately, the HOA is also seeking a new permit to upgrade their revetment, a type of coastal wall, but the current revetment has been out of code for decades. 

“For the few where violators refuse to provide public access– this is one of those cases– we have a very good track record in court,” said Moddelmog. “We don’t take these cases on unless we think we can win.”

Patrick Richard of Nossaman LLP, who is representing the plaintiffs, could not be reached before publication.

As of Wednesday, February 21, green-fences at both sides of the path were installed.

Many people were nonplussed by the new fence at the southern-end of the walkway when asked their opinion by this reporter on Monday.  

A woman pushing a stroller said the HOA won its case and people must walk along the road now.

A few beach-goers pushed aside the orange roadblocks at the north. Coming from the pathway, a girl and a woman explained that the homes looked abandoned so they didn’t feel bad taking the path. Also they didn’t want to walk on the sand. 

An elderly couple expressed concern about the negligence of the property owners after several years of storms had battered the strip. 

Another woman who lives nearby but didn’t want to give her name because of the ongoing litigation said: “The best solution would be for a tsunami to wipe it out.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Disgruntled home owners? 99% of these structures are rental properties that are income for the owners who are not part of this community. They have no ownership to this community and do nothing to involve themselves in our community. The real issue is the inability to have a proper pathway that exists in front of their properties along Beach Dr. The garbage cans for these properties are constantly left on the sidewalk impeding the passage of walkers, people in wheelchairs and children push carts. Even when garbage cans are stowed correctly. You have planters and bushes encroaching onto the sidewalk. Most areas even when the garbage cans are push back negate the ADA requirement for wheelchair access. You’ve got people who park close to the curb and the side mirrors from trucks impedes passage. You can have your patios. Fix the damn problem on the side walk so people can use it without inflicting any inconvenience to those who live here. Those rentals are only occupied for a very short time of the year!

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  2. No homeowner wants the public walking through their patios or backyards; they have the right to some privacy.
    Build a simple (blacktop OR ??) walkway on the sand side of the rocks forming their property barrier. EASY SOLUTION.

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