Last week, Friends of Oceano Dunes scored a huge victory for OHV recreation at Oceano Dunes SVRA. The San Luis Obispo County Superior Court ruled that the California Coastal Commission does not have the authority under state law to ban all OHV at Oceano Dunes.
The Court’s ruling covered four lawsuits – three brought by Friends of Oceano Dunes, and one by EcoLogic Partners. The Court made clear that if the Coastal Commission wants to attempt to ban OHV recreation at the park, it must convince San Luis Obispo County to amend its local coastal plan or compel the State Legislature to change the County’s local coastal plan.
Friends argued that the local coastal plan only authorizes the County, not the Coastal Commission, to close the park, and even then, the closure may only be temporary. The Court agreed with that analysis and agreed that the Commission’s effort to ban OHV unlawfully attempted to amend the County’s plan in violation of the Coastal Act.
The Court also ruled in favor of Friends’ argument that the Commission failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, because it failed to do a proper traffic impact analysis when it decided to close Pier Avenue as a vehicle access point to the beach.
As a result, the Court overturned the Coastal Commission’s March 2021 amendment to the permit that attempted to end all OHV at Oceano Dunes. Thus, the OHV ban will not go into effect, and Pier Avenue beach access will not be closed.
“We are extremely pleased with our victory showing the Coastal Commission exceeded its authority once again,” Jim Suty, President of Friends of Oceano Dunes, said. “Friends of Oceano Dunes will continue to fight to protect continued access for camping and OHV use at the Oceano Dunes the way it has been occurring for over 100 years.”
“We will continue to fight against the use of bad science and the abuse of political power. This win will save jobs and businesses that depend on the $500M economic impact from the visitors to these dunes.”
This court victory also protects jobs and local businesses. A recent study showed that Oceano Dunes visitors from outside San Luis Obispo County generated a total economic impact of over $500 million in 2019. Friends’ Board of Directors have made clear that Friends will continue to pursue all legal remedies to protect beach driving, camping and OHV recreation at Oceano Dunes SVRA the way it has been occurring for the last 100 years.
“Friends of Oceano Dunes put forth the winning strategy to secure this victory which guarantees continued access to the Oceano Dunes SVRA,” Suty said. “The beach will not close to camping and OHV use as the California Coastal Commission voted to do. In addition, the Pier Avenue entrance to the beach and dunes will remain open.”
Friends of Oceano Dunes is a 501(C)(3) California not-for-profit corporation expressly created in 2001 to preserve camping and off-highway vehicle recreation at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area (ODSVRA). Friends is a grass root volunteer organization which represents approximately 28,000 members and users of the Oceano Dunes SVRA. For more information on Friends of Oceano Dunes, visit their website.