Protest Against the Dana Point Headlands Development Project

posted by / News / June 13, 2005

Local protesters rally support for this week’s pivotal court hearing against the Headlands Reserve LLC.

“I look at it like this,” said Mike Lewis, chair of Surfrider’s South Orange County Chapter, to a congregation of forty concerned protesters. “It’s a ten-round boxing match and this coming Wednesday, on June 15th, is the ninth round. By the end of the day somebody’s going to go on the mat.”

This past weekend, June 11th-12th, surfers, environmentalists and local community members organized in the gloomy weather at the parking lot of Strands beach in Dana Point, California, for a peaceful protest against the pending development of the Dana Point Headlands by Sanford Edwards and his company the Headlands Reserve LLC.

One of the last undeveloped stretches of coastal-land remaining in Orange County, real estate developers have eyed the Dana Point Headlands for almost half a century. After a Santa Ana Superior Court judge denied a joint appeal by the Surfrider Foundation and the {{{Sierra}}} Club to postpone Sanford Edwards companies development of the Headlands on April 15, 2005, grass-roots activists have been fighting an increasingly difficult and disheartening uphill battle.

“It seemed like the moment the appeal was denied, they started grading the whole area to pieces,” commented Mike Howard, thirty-year resident and local surfer. “The place used to be so beautiful, but if you look at it now it’s pretty sad.”

In the protest that took place on both Saturday and Sunday from 11-2 p.m. the Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club rallied local support for their cause by spreading information about the current construction going on.

“People need to understand that we are not against development,” said Lewis, while cop cars patrolled the parking lot where he was speaking. “What we are against is that the current development plan includes the creation of a new seawall, which is illegal because such a creation goes against the California Costal Act of 1972.”

Should the June 15th hearing at the Orange County Superior Court rule in favor of Sanford Edwards’ company, the effect on the local level in Dana Point would be the development of 118 three to four million dollar homes, a sixty-five to ninety room Sea-Side hotel, 35,000 square feet of commercial space, a conservation park, 3.8 miles of trail systems and a 2,{{{200}}} foot long seawall.


There has been a myriad of articles written on the issues of Edwards project, but what it all boils down to is that many surfers and beach advocates alike believe that the construction a 2,200 seawall along the coast would be detrimental to the natural system of sedimentary deposits to the beach by stopping natural erosion. Over an extended period of time, such a shift in the environmental habitat could possibly destroy both the beach and the waves.

“As you remove sources of sand,” explained Lewis, “The likelihood and number of days that the sand can replenish the beaches are diminished. The solution is to plan a development project that wouldn’t have a negative effect on he natural environment.”

However, while Erica Williams of the city of Dana Point planning and development department assures that “Studies will be done to make sure that [the beach] will not suffer damage, and will be replenished with any sand lost during the construction.”

Lewis maintains that the impact of the upcoming June 15th hearing will resonate on more levels than just the local one, “If we fail, it sets a precedence that big development, special interests groups, and the build-up of the California shore-line are more important than upholding the California Coastal Act and protecting the coast.”

The conflict between Sanford Edwards’ company and organizations such as Surfrider and the Sierra Club emerges in the semantics of each side’s argument. The California Coastal Act restricts the building of new seawalls to protect new developments along its coast. In effect, the Headlands Reserve LLC claims that they are merely ‘repairing’ an older development and seawall that already existed in ruins at the site before they arrived. On the other side of the argument, Surfrider and Sierra club claim that the Headlands Reserve LLC is building a new development and thus a new seawall to protect that development, which would be illegal under the Coastal Act.

In the face of big money and corporations, many surfers around the Dana Point area have felt an overwhelming sense of futility. Employee Dustin Mister, of the Killer Dana surf shop — a surf store named after the famous Killer Dana surf break that was destroyed by the construction of a harbor in 1966 — voiced his concern about the issue:

“In the end you have to follow the money, and if you throw around millions of dollars and lobby enough, you’re going to be able to pass stuff that shouldn’t be passed.”

Although Sanford Edwards was unavailable for comment, a close inspection of his proposed development plans seem to suggest that the construction a seawall would not be necessary were he to scrap the third row of houses he was planning on building. However, the result of such an action would remove about twenty to twenty-five homes from the plan. These homes, which would be closest to the beach, would have cost about five million dollars a piece, equaling a net-financial loss of nearly $125 millions dollars.

“Is that an appropriate price to pay for a beach in California?” Lewis asked the crowd on Saturday morning. This weekend, amidst the hazy weather and down-to-the-wire circumstances, the driven spirit of the protestors was not yet ready to relent to the June gloom.

The hearing take place at the Orange County Superior Court at 10:00am on Wednesday.June 15th.

For more information log onto www.Surfrider.org or www.SierraClub.org

-Sanford Edward was unavailable for comments.

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