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California Coastal Commission Sues Over a Backyard Picnic Table

George and Sharlee McNamee have a beautiful home and a bounty of children and grandchildren who visit them in their Corona Del Mar, California.

Life should be good. It’s not. The reason: For the last decade, the McNamees’ backyard has been a battlefield. The retired couple has spent $250,000 in legal fees fighting for the freedom to use a picnic table, a built-in barbecue pit and other amenities in their own backyard.

The Coastal Commission issued a cease-and-desist order against the McNamees in May, 2004

We fight for two reasons, property rights and freedom,” says George McNamee, a silver-haired former insurance salesman. “My wife and I decided a long time ago, those two things matter. Without that, there isn’t much left.”

The commission wants the McNamees to convert their private backyard into a public nature reserve for the pleasure of the viewing public,” said the couple’s attorney, Paul Beard, of the Pacific Legal Foundation. “It is important we are able to restrain these kind of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in order to set an example to other agencies around the country that people have property rights that need to be respected.”


Although it is not, strictly speaking an eminent domain case, the case raises fundamental issues of property rights: Although the Coastal Commission hasn’t formally confiscated the McNamees’ beach property, the Commission is trying, effectively, to take control of their land. (PLF)

The case also illustrates the arrogance of the California Coastal Commission, a un-elected rogue agency long notorious for abusing property rights and property owners.(PLF)

The McNamees offered a compromise — they would get rid of the flower garden, palapa and shed if they were allowed to keep the picnic table, shower and barbecue.

The commission said no.


Is frivolous, capricious, and costly litigation over beach furniture the best use of the State of California’s scant fiscal resources, the office of the state Attorney General, The California Coastal Commission and the judiciary?

I think not.

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7 Responses to “California Coastal Commission Sues Over a Backyard Picnic Table”

  1. Francis Drouillard Says:

    Guess you haven’t noticed this:

    Note that the court found the Commission’s actions reasonable, and that the plaintiffs “take-it-or-leave-it” confrontational approach didn’t serve them well.

  2. Brian Ginna Says:

    Of course, poor Francis misconstrues what he believes to be the “confrontational approach” of the McNamees. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that’s how Francis rolls. Truth and facts take a sideline to his cheerleading (the only thing he has reviewed about this case is the latest decision). Celebrating yet another loss of private property rights is his game. Taking delight in other’s losses (which could impact Francis someday if he ever chooses to develop on the California coast).

    This isn’t about anything extreme, no matter how you couch it. This was a good fight that needed to be fought. Unfortunately for the McNamees, the fight has not gone their way. Hope they can continue.

    Imagine if the McNamee’s had simply fenced in their backyard and not shared it with the public. They would have avoided this whole episode.

  3. Francis Drouillard Says:

    For a belligerent blowhard that professes to know everything about everything, Brian Ginna finds himself on the losing side of issue after issue related to the Coastal Commission.

    When was the last time that clown was right about anything?

  4. Brian Ginna Says:

    Still haven’t seen Richard’s movie, have you? Yet you visit this site.

    Maybe at some point you will realize that the “losing side” is anyone who truly values freedoms. You seem to think that is a bad thing.

    When you get a chance, ask Sara Wan about ESHA and her house. Thanks.

  5. Francis Drouillard Says:

    Still dwelling on the irrelevant, aren’t you Mr. Ginna? The ruling made it very clear what those issues were, yet you fail to acknowledge them. It seems that dwelling on the irrelevant is the way you roll, homey.

    It’s folks like you, Mr. Oshen and the PLF that lead folks astray and encourage them to pursue a legal course of action that has no chance succeeding.

    There was a reason that the founders choose to use the word “liberty” instead of “freedom.” The former implies a sense of responsibility whereas the latter does not. Get your arms around that and you might sound less foolish when you talk about property rights within the Coastal Zone, particularly when the private property abuts a state park.

  6. CPA Offers Says:

    Thank you very much for that superb article

  7. Benjamin Wood Says:

    No chance in succeeding because of a complicit, corrupt state judiciary, that eschews the notion of private property in California and quite possibly America. Quite correct, Mr. Droulliard, liberty does come with responsibility and that responsibility, is spelled out in the Constitution of the United States and right to life and property is spelled out.

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