On Friday, the Coastal Commission overturned a San Luis Obispo County approved coastal development permit for the relocation of the Ontario Ridge Trail on the McCarthy property just downcoast from Avila Beach. The property owner was looking to move the trail easement in order to accommodate future residential development at the site. The Coastal Commission found that prescriptive public rights to the trail likely exist due to decades of historic use. Community opposition to relocating the trail abounded due to the highly scenic nature of the existing well-loved vistas and trail route. Commissioners agreed that the property owners did not have a right to relocate the trail and urged them to work with Coastal Commission staff to find an appropriate location for their residential development.
Why You Should Care
The County-approved project would prohibit the public from using the existing trail and easement on the McCarthy property by completely removing the trail and extinguishing the easement, which is in direct conflict with a 2014 Commission Cease and Desist Order. The public’s right of continued use was likely formally established as a prescriptive right through historic use. Thus, even if the County’s action permitting the relocation of the trail easement was able to be found to be legally permissible, this action does not simultaneously extinguish the underlying prescriptive rights of use that are held by the public at large.
Negative Conservation Vote
Commissioners agreed that the property owners did not have a right to relocate the trail and urged them to work with Coastal Commission staff to find an appropriate location for their residential development.
Local Residents, Surfrider Foundation
Appeal + De Novo