Beach Houses Around the Country Are at Risk of Sinking, and Coastal Enclaves Are at War About How to Save Them – Robb Report

Broad Beach, Malibu, California "Rip Rap Under Attack" (by LA Waterkeeper CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).
Broad Beach, Malibu, California "Rip Rap Under Attack" (by LA Waterkeeper CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

For some homebuyers, the fantasy of coastal living will forever outweigh the risks. But rising sea levels and shifting sands can mean getting closer to the ocean than you might have intended.

It was after a beachside housewarming party in Southern California that the neighborhood snitch was unmasked. Residents of the cliff-top community had gathered to eat lobster and indulge in a favorite local pastime: grumbling about coastal-protection rules that stop them from reinforcing the eroding bluffs beneath their homes under the theory that any hardening of the shore will exacerbate beach erosion. 

“A new neighbor had moved in and done this beautiful remodeling job on a house that was in a huge state of disrepair,” recalls one guest and longtime resident. “And he had this incredible party [with] music playing, and everyone had the most wonderful afternoon. Later we found out that one neighbor turned him in to the city because he found out he’d built a home office,” which the tattletale suspected contravened the area’s strict environmental regulations. 

The party guests were appalled when they saw the neighbor’s name on the official complaint. “We said, ‘OK, this Mr. Nosy Pants is in there, you know, having his lobster tail and his shrimp cocktail and meanwhile taking notes furiously,’ ” says the resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Soon after, others in the community realized the same person was also ratting on them to the authorities for unpermitted home repairs. 

“He ended up in litigation with several neighbors,” says the resident, who hired an attorney herself after receiving an inspection notice from the city during what she describes as a simple bathroom-retiling project. In a yet-to-be-resolved case, she’s suing the neighbor for harassment, trespassing and false claims. “This is how coastal homeowners live…” 


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