The Coastal Commission’s enforcement division issued a consent cease and desist and administrative penalty action against Paradise Point Resort before the Commission. Paradise Point is a luxury resort in Mission Bay with a long standing history of violating the Coastal Act, including obstructing public access and construction of an unpermitted water fountain, deck and pier. With the orders, the resort has agreed to remove unpermitted development blocking public access, restore two new public access points, add ADA features to the pier, initiate a public awareness campaign to advertise public access opportunities, provide public restrooms, fund a $500,000 environmental justice program to bring lower income students and their families from nearby communities for overnight stays with science and education recreational opportunities and pay a monetary penalty of $1 million. Enforcement staff estimated the total value of the penalties and fines as $4 million.
Why You Should Care
This is a big win for coastal access in Mission Bay and a testament to the Commission’s small but mighty enforcement division. The estimated $4.1 total million dollars in penalties, in addition to a $300,000/day for continued violations*, signals to private property owners that those who intentionally and repeatedly block access to the public’s right to accessing the coast will not go unnoticed. The inclusion of an environmental justice program with nuanced provisions for programs for lower-income students and their families will set the precedent that public access must go beyond parking and restrooms, although those are a necessity, at a minimum. That said, this case raises many questions. What is the dollar amount that can stop a multi-million dollar company from repeating their transgressions in the name of profit? In a case that is billed primarily as a public access case, why is the amount allocated towards the people who have actively been excluded from accessing the space only one-quarter of the total estimated penalty? Infrastructure improvements alone in the backyard of known repeat violators will be insufficient to truly provide equitable coastal access in and along the shore at Mission Bay.We must continue to move from simply physical access to the coast towards a more expansive view of coastal access that centers equity, belonging, and justice.
Negative Conservation Vote
Commissioners discussed the adequacy of the orders and prompted the Respondents to agree to additional temporary public access signs while restoration is underway over the coming months. Alternate Commissioner Gretchen Newsom highlighted the various continued violations being undertaken by the Respondent just days prior to the hearing, including a private event blocking access to public accessways. Commissioner Paloma Aguirre questioned how different dollar amounts for violations were determined, noting that the $500,000 allotted for an environmental justice program was only half of what the violator agreed to pay for the reconstruction of a pier, which, without adequate public signage, will mainly serve to act as an amenity for resort guests. Vice Chair Caryl Hart emphasized the importance of education for resort employees to ensure that all staff not only were aware of the importance of the public's right to access the shoreline, but would create a welcoming environment for all members of the public visiting the area, especially those participating in the environmental justice program.
Cease and Desist Orders