Making a whole town exposed to lawsuits may force 'em to police the beach. Wouldn’t it be fun to be on the Anti-Localism Surf force?
Is your town responsible for your behaviors?
A California appeals court on Tuesday resurrected the lawsuit against the city of Palos Verdes Estates filed by two Los Angeles County surfers. The suit claims that the city of Palos Verdes is liable for injury to the surfers at the hands of the local Lunada Bay Boys, “America’s most notorious surf gang,” according to Newsweek.
This would mark the first time that a municipality, not an individual, would be held responsible for acts of localism.
If you are unaware, here’s the short of it:
A group of locals hailing from the well-heeled Palos Verdes estates compelled outsiders to surf elsewhere through various techniques. Rocks tossed, tires slashed, surfers finned, hurt feelings and the like.
Things boiled over in 2016 when former Los Angeles police officer/current plaintiff Cory Spencer and filmmaker/model Diana Reed sued members of the Lunada Bay Boys for assault, claiming that the boys were nasty to them.
Spencer states that one of the Boys ran him over while in the water.
The original suit went after members of the Bay Boys; A new suit is going after the city.
At the center of the litigation is the rock fort the Boys (men) built. The structure served as all around hang-out and ground zero for the alleged terrorist acts. In addition to serving as a place to gather, drink beer and grill meat (a euphemism?), the fort acted as a barrier to visitors, restricting free access to the beach and its waves.
Spencer’s lawsuit claims that the city allowed the rock and wood fort, now deconstructed, to stand, knowing that it acted as the bees’ nest of intimidation.
Spencer and his attorneys claim that the city basically “conspired with the Bay Boys essentially to privitize Lunada Bay.”
Because Palos Verdes Estates knew of the structure but failed to have it removed until after Spencer’s assault (twelve of the Boys agreed to keep out of the Bay for one year or pay up to ninety grand), they might be liable for damages as well.
According to the California Coastal Act, the creation of a structure such as the rock fort on any public beach is considered “development” and requires approval and strict planning process, which the town obviously did not do.
“The city, as landowner,” the appellate court stated, “violated the Coastal Act by maintaining the unpermitted rock fort on its property for decades.”
The city of Palos Verdes has maintained that they were steadfast in monitoring the area, keeping it safe for all.
However, the suit could spell trouble for Palos Verdes Estates and potentially any other municipality in California with localism issues. After all, who cares if one or two guys get arrested and fined a few bucks for fighting on the beach.
But making a whole town exposed to lawsuits may make city councils sit up straight.
It also may force towns to police the beach a bit more. Making sure everyone is smiling and such.
(Wouldn’t it be fun to be on the Anti-Localism Surf force? I’m dreaming of uniforms already.)
Now, a word about both parties:
The Lunada Bay Boys— the moniker whips up more impressions of chiffon and leather boardshorts with tap shoes in the evening than it does a surf gang— don’t have the legal right to keep anyone away from the waves. Some might see the Bay, however, as their house and every house needs a solid door with keys.
Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing notes that “visiting surfers since the early 1970s have had rocks thrown at them while walking down the cliffside Lunada trail, and returned from the water to find their car windows broken and their tires slashed — the work of local surfers, the sons of millionaires, determined to keep their break free of outsiders.”
If Spencer and Reed hadn’t filed suit, these incidents have remained sub rosa. And Spencer’s lawsuit only asks that the city “pledge to keep the beach open to everyone, install a few signs, maybe a few benches.”
Could Spencer also not find a more hospitable place to surf near his home in LA?
Some might consider his actions too extreme. We used to just pack our trauma into a country song, but now we’re in therapy, running into the arms of lawyers.
“Show the court on this doll where the city hurt you.”
We’ll see where this all goes.
For now, the lesson can be simply to stay away from grown men playing in forts in the sand.