Sands cafe must remove units

Commission asks county to remove Aliso Beach storage containers or face fines. Legal action could follow.

July 01, 2010|By Barbara Diamond,
  • The Sands Cafe at Aliso Beach was told by Coastal Commission to remove storage units that store patio tables.
The Sands Cafe at Aliso Beach was told by Coastal Commission… (Cindy Frazier,…)

Aliso Beach concessionaire Michael Weiss hoped to get California Coastal Commission approval of amenities for which he once thought he had permits.

Those hopes were dashed by a letter to Orange County Parks Director Mark Denny from the commission staff giving Denny until today to respond to the commission threats to take legal action to resolve the placement of storage containers on the sand and the removal of vegetation on the beach without official approval. The letter requested removal of the containers by July 16.

"I have been told that I cannot get a permit to have the containers on the sand," said Weiss, who was awarded the lease for the Sands Café and concession stand by the county. "I have driven along the coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara and I found many businesses that have containers on the sand, and my assumption is that they all have permits — so why can't I?"


"This is a selective enforcement issue."

Denny did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

The June 17 letter stated that the commission prefers an amicable resolution, but it is authorized by the Coastal Act to issue a cease-and-desist order to enforce any requirement of a certified Local Coastal Plan, in this case, Laguna's.

Litigation might include the imposition on the person held responsible for the un-permitted development — that would be the installation of the storage containers — of as much as $30,000, but not less than $500 per violation. The act also authorizes fines of not less than $1,000 or more than $15,000 a day imposed on the person who "knowingly and intentionally" violates the act.

Weiss was under the impression when he invested more than $250,000 to upgrade the concession stand to café status that he had permission to locate the containers near the building for easily accessible storage of rental equipment required in the lease, and for additional seating on the sand outside the patio area.

The commission letter stated the proposed sand seating would also need a permit.

Beach umbrellas allowed

"Our position is that we don't see any difference between us putting chairs and tables on the sand for patrons and storing them at night and the beachgoers who bring umbrellas, chairs and other stuff to the beach and take it with them when they leave," Weiss said.

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