A California appeals court ruled Palos Verdes Estates may be liable if city officials fail to prevent the harassment of outside surfers by a local surf gang known as the Lunada Bay Boys. The ruling drags the city back into a 2016 lawsuit by two surfers who say they experienced the gang’s wrath directly. LA Times columnist Robin Abcarian joined Lisa McRee on “LA Times Today” with more on the history of surf localism in Palos Verdes Estates.
Abcarian said she was fascinated by the contrast of the California Coastal Act of 1973 and the sometimes violent localism at Lunada Bay. That law said that public beaches are for anyone to enjoy.
“Localism is this idea that if you live in an area, the beach and the waves belong to you. So, you know, what happens is people come from all over to surf a great break. And Lunada Bay is considered one of the premier winter breaks in the world,” Abcarian said. “So the idea that only a handful of people can use it is deeply offensive. But this is what the essence of localism is. And this beach is considered one of the most localized in the world.”
The Lunada Bay Boys’ presence at the beach goes back decades.
“When they see an outsider pull up, they get on their phones and they text. And then pretty soon the locals come down to the cliff above the break and they throw rocks, they slash tires, they wax windshields, they verbally harass people. If you dare to go out into the surf, they will drop in on you. They will push you under the rocks. It gets very violent out there,” Abcarian shared.
Two attorneys brought a case against the locals in 2016, but it didn’t look like it was getting a lot of traction because it was hard to prove some sort of conspiracy behind the actions.
“The first the case was thrown out of court because a judge said that the kind of intimidation and harassment that was happening at Lunada Bay did not constitute any kind of development under the Coastal Act. The appellate judge said it does, because you’re preventing people from accessing the coast. The city of Palos Verdes Estates appealed to the California Supreme Court, which just two weeks ago said [they] were not taking the case. So now it goes back to state court where it will be fought with this new understanding of what the definition of development is,” Abcarian explained.
If Palos Verdes Estates loses the case, the city would be subject to retroactive fines of up to $15,000 a day, a sum that would have a big impact on the small city.
Watch the full interview above.
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