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Laguna Beach Couple Hit With $1M Fine, Ordered To Tear Down Seawall

LAGUNA BEACH (CBSLA) — A Laguna Beach couple whose reconstructed, beach-front property apparently tried to skirt California Coastal Commission rules was slapped with a $1 million fine and ordered to promptly remove a seawall that damaged a public beach.

The Commission voted unanimously Thursday to levy the fine and require the homeowners to remove the 11-foot-tall, 80-foot-long seawall, which is damaging the beach and blocking public access to Victoria Beach.

"The property owners purposefully sought to avoid the Coastal Commission review, and chose to disregard the agency's repeated advice to comply with the law," Executive Director Jack Ainsworth said in a statement. "They took a calculated risk that backfired. This did not have to turn out this way."

Seawalls damage beaches by preventing sand from reaching the beach, eventually causing the beach to shrink until it disappears.

It was made clear to the property owners, Jeff and Tracy Katz, that demolition or remodeling must be made to less than 50 percent of the home, according to the California Coastal Commission.

"We performed according to the permits and followed the law," Steve Kauffman, who represents the homeowners, said during the hearing.

According to the Commission, the Katzes moved forward with an expansive rebuild in violation of previously issued Commission permits – then instructed their architect to pursue local permits only, and avoid the Commission. The reconstructed beachfront home's value skyrocketed from $14 million to $25 million.

And since the construction began, the Commission says the seawall has trapped as much as 18 large dump trucks of sand behind it, leaving very little dry sand on the beach at certain times of the year.

The Katzes were ordered to come up with a plan to tear down the seawall within 60 days and pay a fine of $1 million.

"In the words of Ronald Reagan, 'Bring down this wall,'" Commissioner Roberto Uranga said in a statement.

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