The California Court of Appeals rejected a petition that would have shrunk the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Area to two-thirds of its current size.
The argument hinged on conflicts between the state’s General Development Plan (GDP) for the park and the county’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP). The LCP designates the 500-acre La Grande Tract as a “buffer area,” but the state’s GDP allows Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) to operate on the tract.
County attorney Tim McNulty said the label of “buffer area” was never really defined in the LCP. He explained that circumstances particular to coastal protection give counties the power to override the state, but it’s a discretionary power. The county can force the state to comply with its plan, but it can also choose not to, he said.
“Everything’s different in the coastal zone,” McNulty said. “Nothing automatically compels the state to change its plan, but it’s generally done every few years.”
Babak Naficy, who represented the Sierra Club in court, said that the GDP was woefully out of date. It was drafted in 1975 and typed on an actual typewriter. The county’s LCP went into effect in 1982, and includes a catalogue of changes that Naficy said are being ignored, including the OHV restrictions, provisions for additional recreational activities, and a requirement that the park be managed in a manner consistent with community needs.
“If you ask the residents, they’ll tell you that isn’t happening,” Naficy said.
The California 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld the decision made by SLO County Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall. Essentially, the courts said that Sierra Club’s argument may be valid, but now isn’t the time to talk about it.
They’ll have to wait until the State Park applies for a building permit in the area. That could serve as a catalyst to bring them to court for a decision on the LCP. Until then, Sierra Club’s only other option is to appeal to the State Supreme Court, but both sides said that’s unlikely.