"Lagunans have always had access to Rockledge, and much of it is going to be lost due to the proposed development at 2425 South Coast Hwy.," said Jessen, a longtime South Laguna resident. "In addition, a number of people have filled out affidavits testifying to their use of a route across the property at 2425 South Coast [Hwy.], and there are photographs to document this."
Councilman Kelly Boyd called it trespassing. Boyd and Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly, an attorney, concurred that access had not been formalized.
Resident Fred Talarico said the public traditionally has prescriptive rights across property along the coast, and 1,500 signatures were gathered in support of a study of beach access.
Prescriptive rights refer to public rights acquired over private land through use, according to a Coastal Commission fact sheet.
"A right of access acquired through use is, essentially, an easement over real property that comes into being without the explicit consent of the owner," according to the commission.
The use must continue for five years to qualify in California as a public prescriptive easement; be substantial, rather than minimal and continual, though not necessarily continuous; and be without significant objection or bona fide attempts by the owner to stop the trespass.
"We approached your honorable council on this matter when you considered the proposed development at 2425 South Coast [Hwy.]," Jessen said. "The city attorney suggested that the public coastal access issue would be better addressed at the Coastal Commission, so you took no action on that aspect of the project."
The council's approval of the development was appealed to the Coastal Commission.
Talarico told the council that the commission withdrew the appeal without making access supporters aware, leaving them without a voice in the decision.