PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif. (AP) — Officials in a Southern California beach town dismissed as “urban legend” repeated allegations that surfers have used violence and intimidation to protect their surf spot from intrusion by outsiders, according to documents obtained by a newspaper.
Correspondence between the city manager, police chief and council members in Palos Verdes Estates also discussed ways to avoid public and media scrutiny of the clashes that go back decades, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
A class-action lawsuit filed in March asks a federal judge to prevent the group of surfers known as the Lunada Bay Boys from congregating at beaches in the wealthy city south of Los Angeles. The suit also targets the city, asking a judge to require officials to investigate and prosecute any crimes committed by the group of surfers.
Authorities have been accused of looking the other way as the gang threatened non-local surfers, tossed rocks at them and vandalized their cars — sometimes coordinating the attacks with walkie-talkies. One accuser said she was sexually harassed and doused with beer in retaliation for appearing in a news article about the problems.
The written exchanges show that when Republican Assemblyman David Hadley had a conference call with city officials earlier this year, offering to intervene with state resources, City Manager Tony Dahlerbruch and other Palos Verdes Estates leaders rejected the overture, saying they feared it would draw more media attention.
Police Chief Jeff Kepley rejected recommendations from former law enforcement officers from other areas on ways to police the matter more aggressively with sting operations and more frequent patrols, according to an email he sent to a council member.
“This is an old story and one that I do not consider news or worthy of news coverage,” Kepley wrote in a memorandum that also acknowledged the Police Department had done “likely not enough” to rid Lunada Bay of harassment.
Kepley vowed in December to “make an example out of anyone who behaves criminally down there.” He told the Times then that he planned to add patrols along the coast and order overtime for officers in the city about 30 miles south of Los Angeles that’s known for its multimillion-dollar homes.
The newspaper obtained the documents, including emails and memos, through public records requests. Dahlerbruch and Kepley declined to comment for the Times’ story. City officials have not commented on the lawsuit.
Officials argued in a March meeting with California Coastal Commission staffers trying to promote public access that the problem was merely “urban legend,” according to a memo Dahlerbruch wrote to the City Council.
Critics have long argued that locals treat the rock and sand shore at Lunada Bay as if it were their own private beach. The commission staffers suggested ways to ensure people from outside the city can get to the water, including improved trails and better signs.
Councilman James F. Goodhart said in an interview that none of the public access proposals have received consideration from the council.
The allegations have led to at least one civil court judgment. In 2004, an outsider attacked at the surf spot was awarded $450,000 for his injuries. A judge ordered a 24-year-old to pay for the attack on Timothy Banas, who suffered a chipped tooth and injured knee.