Fight on the Beach

For the last decade, George and Sharlee McNamee have been locked in legal battle with California regulators over the couple's right to build improvements on their own property, which abuts a coastal zone in California.


    Beachfront Battle

    A retired couple in California has spent $250,000 in legal fees in a decade-long battle over their right to build amenities in their own backyard, a stretch of sand along the beachfront in Corona Del. Mar, Calif.

    A View of the Coast

    The California Coastal Commission is attempting to fine a retired couple, George and Sharlee McNamee, $6,000 a day for placing a small thatched hut and picnic table in their own backyard. "If you have built something in the coastal zone without getting a permit either from your local government or the commission, you've broken the law," said Sara Christie, legislative director for the Commission.

    Land in Dispute

    Down the stairs from the McNamee's house are a picnic table, a barbecue are, a thatched palapa and a small shower -- private improvements that California state regulators say are illegal because the couple's property abuts the state's coastal zone.

    George McNamee

    George McNamee has brought his case to the California state Court of Appeals in an effort to fend off the zealous Coastal Commission, which rejected a permit application he filed in 2001 to build improvements on his property. The commission also objected to a flower bed he planted that contained non-native plants. "We fight for two reasons, property rights and freedom," said the insurance salesman. "My wife and I decided a long time ago, those two things matter. Without that, there isn't much left."

    At the Courthouse

    The McNamee's attorney, Paul Beard, said the couple would fight the commission's attempts to turn their private property into a "public nature reserve." The McNamees will abide whatever ruling they get frmo the state's court of appeals, but see their case as a chance to "restrain these kind of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats" and make the case that "people have property rights that need to be respected."
Image 1 of 4