Two local environmental groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the California Coastal Commission approval of a plan by an Orthodox synagogue in Venice to construct a symbolic religious enclosure known as an “eruv” several miles along the beach.
The Marina Peninsula Neighborhood Association and the Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network (CLEAN) filed a lawsuit Monday, December 18th, in the California Superior Court of San Francisco against the California Coastal Commission for approving the installation of fishing wire and poles to hold the wires along beaches in Santa Monica, Venice and near the Marina del Rey entrance channel.
The Marina Peninsula Neighborhood Association is a nonprofit organization formed to assure the ecological balance with- in the Marina Peninsula and to help protect the endangered least tern nesting area.
CLEAN is a group that works to ensure protection of the California coastline, as well as to address concerns related to the enforcement of violations of the California Coastal Act.
The Coastal Act focuses on the issues of public access, protection of views to and along the coast and protection of environmentally sensitive habitat.
The Pacific Jewish Center, 505 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, has proposed stretching the fishing line between existing street lights and light poles along the beaches to erect the eruv religious enclosure.
The eruv would permit Orthodox Jews to perform certain work or “carrying” actions in public, such as pushing, pulling, lifting and throwing — activities that, under Jewish law, are forbidden on the Sabbath.
By creating a symbolically enclosed area, observant Jews are permitted to perform the carrying actions because they are within what is considered a private area.
The California Coastal Commission approved the installation of the eruv at its November meeting.
But the Marina Peninsula Neighborhood Association and CLEAN allege that the coastal commission, in approving the project, “acted contrary” to the Coastal Act, the California Environmental Quality Act and the Venice Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan.
“This lawsuit is an attempt by citizens to uphold the important tenets of California’s strong environmental laws,” said Rose Zoia, attorney for the petitioners. “It is astonishing that neither the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, the City of Santa Monica nor the California Coastal Commission thought it was important to complete an environmental review for such a project, particularly when an endangered species is involved.”
But Chris Pederson, supervising staff counsel for the California Coastal Commission, said the commission evaluates all projects for consistency with the Coastal Act and “complied with all applicable legal requirements” in approving the eruv project.
The petitioners also claim that the review and approval process failed to consider the views and opinions of area residents who are directly affected by the eruv and are “uniformly opposed to the project.”
The installation of the wires on public beaches could, among other things, negatively impact the survival of an endangered bird, the California least tern, the petitioners claim.
“Our neighborhood association has very strong concerns regarding the intrusion of structures and additional wires on the beach in an area already fouled with telephone poles and utility lines that we are working hard to get relocated underground,” said Mark Winter, board representative of the Marina Peninsula Neighborhood Association.
“The least tern is a much beloved and colorful part of this environment,” Winter said. “We should not increase pressure on this species with even more structures and wires, particularly those that could easily harm the tern and other birds.”
Pederson contended that members of the public had the opportunity to offer input on their various concerns regarding the project.
“A pretty lengthy public hearing did occur regarding this matter,” Pederson said.
The petitioners claim that other problems with the project include interference with public coastal views and the public’s right of access and recreational experience on a beach that is free of artificial structures.
“The general public has the right to unimpeded views of the ocean and our glorious coastline,” said Marcia Hanscom, managing director of Coastal Law Enforcement Action Network.