By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
A crackdown by the California Coastal Commission may mean residential life at the Pacific Shores subdivision is over.
However, at least one property owner said he plans to fight the Coastal Commission's efforts to clear all structures from the sand dunes north of Crescent City.
The 1,800-lot Pacific Shores subdivision has gone without sewer and water utilities since its creation in 1963 due to coastal environmental constraints. Even so, about 25 property owners have parked mobile homes and built fences on their land.
One resident, Terry Litz, has set up a portable toilet and lives in a trailer with a wooden fence built around part of it.
Litz, who has lived at his Pacific Shores lot for nine years, said he won't move until the government comes to takes his home away.
"I bought and paid for the land and I'm planning to stay here until I'm forced off," he said.
Because Pacific Shores is in the coastal zone, lots there are subject to Coastal Commission regulation.
Anyone developing property at Pacific Shores is required to secure a permit from the Coastal Commission. The commission's enforcement supervisor, Nancy Cave, said no permits have been issued for development there.
"We have open cases on approximately 25 property owners out there, but we're moving very slowly and issued only one (removal) order so far," Cave said. Pacific Shores property owners James and Debra Sharp were ordered to remove a trailer, swingset, fence and culvert from their property.
Eventually, all structures or "placements of any solid material" there will have to be removed, Cave said.
Litz said he isn't so sure the Coastal Commission has the authority to boot Pacific Shores property owners off their land.
"There have been other struggles where the Coastal Commission has been declared unconstitutional and that was a 10-year thing," said Litz.
Cave said a structure would be allowed to remain at Pacific Shores only if the property owner can prove that it doesn't adversely affect sensitive wildlife and wildlife habitat ¬Ė a nearly impossible task because Pacific Shores was platted on brush-covered sand dunes and is wedged between the ocean and the wetlands of Lake Earl.
Pacific Shores was surveyed last year by the California Department of Fish and Game. That survey showed that the area is blanketed with endangered species habitat and wetlands.
Such land designations require a buffer zone between the habitat or wetlands and any structure.
"Even without buffers, most of these lots are going to be impossible to develop," Ernie Perry, head of the Del Norte County Community Development Department said in July after the Fish and Game report was released.
It was also in July that the Coastal Commission issued a letter to Pacific Shores lot owners informing them of the commission's authority to regulate their land and any development on it.
The letter told residents that because they have no permit, they are in violation of the coastal act and can be fined, with the structures forcibly removed.
Litz said he was taken by surprise when the letter came and that he found it confusing.
"It requires you to get a permit to stay and it requires you to get a permit to remove your structures. It sounds like it's forbidding any action," he said.
Cave said the commission will tread gently into Pacific Shores, and will work slowly and cooperatively with property owners.
"We really want to make this a reasonable process. There is a long history of how this land was subdivided and sold, so we want to be reasonable to them," Cave said.
She added that the small enforcement staff of the commission will likely take only one case at a time and allow property owners to remove the illegal structures before fines are levied.