West Coast
Cars on the Oceano Dunes south of Arroyo Grande Creek on March 22, 2021. (David Middlecamp / San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)

CA - California Coastal Commission Will Appeal SLO Judge’s Oceano Dunes Ruling

The California Coastal Commission will appeal a recent ruling by a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge to allow off-road riding at the Oceano Dunes.

Superior Court Judge Tana Coates’ July 19 ruling effectively overturned a Coastal Commission’s March 2021 vote to prohibit off-highway vehicle use in much of Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area by 2024.

Coates’ ruling was declared a victory for off-roading advocacy groups, who waged the lawsuits against the Coastal Commission to protect OHV use at the popular state park in southern San Luis Obispo County, and a loss for wildlife advocacy groups, who celebrated the removal of vehicles from the sensitive dune ecosystem.

During a closed session in the Coastal Commission’s Wednesday meeting, commissioners voted to direct legal counsel to appeal the ruling. A notice of appeal was filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Wednesday evening.

The case now moves to the California 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles.

Coates’ ruling, as well as the underlying coastal development permit at the center of the issue, are put on hold while the case moves through the appellate court. That means off-road riding can continue at the Oceano Dunes.

Judge: Coastal Commission Acted Outside Jurisdiction in OHV Ban

The Coastal Commission’s March 2021 vote amended the coastal development permit for Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area by prohibiting off-highway vehicles on most of the dunes by 2024.

The only area where vehicles were to be permitted after 2024 was a one-mile stretch of beach between Grand Avenue in Grover Beach and Pier Avenue in Oceano, according to the commission’s amendment to the permit.

Friends of Oceano Dunes, an off-roading advocacy group, sued the Coastal Commission shortly after its 2021 vote. The nonprofit organization argued that the Coastal Commission had abused its discretion and not conducted a proper environmental analysis of the impact of its decision.

Coates agreed in part with Friends of Oceano Dunes.

In her July 19 ruling, she found that the Coastal Commission had acted “without, or in excess of (its) jurisdiction” by amending the coastal development permit. She noted in her ruling that the San Luis Obispo County local coastal program, which covers the Oceano Dunes park area, allows for off-highway vehicle use there.

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