02-17-10 825 AM
The California Court of Appeals has decided a 12-year old Bethel Island dispute that could make an impact on the use of all curved shorelines in California. The issue decided by the court involved how the use of a cove along the shore must be shared among the cove’s upland lot owners.
In 1998 Paul and Margery Walker moored their houseboat in an area where their neighbors, Alvin and Maria Luckenbach, wanted to place their dock. The Walkers claimed that they were entitled to moor their boat at that spot because they had obtained a lease from the state that allowed them to use an area of water determined by extending a line into the water between the Walker and Luckenbach lots drawn at 90 degrees (perpendicular) to the Walkers’ shoreline.
The Luckenbachs argued that, on a curved shoreline such as in a cove, two lines needed to be drawn, the first a 90-degree line to the Walkers’ shore; the second a 90-degree line to the Luckenbachs’ shore, which would create a V-shaped overlap claimed by both lot owners.
The Luckenbachs further asserted that the V-shaped overlap area must be split down the middle and equally shared by both neighbors. The Walkers needed the entire overlap area to continue to moor their boat. Splitting the V down the middle would mean that the Walkers’ boat was required to be moved.
The court agreed with the Luckenbachs, based in part on a 177-year-old case from Maine that also called for the V overlap to be split in half.
The Luckenbachs were divorced, and Alvin Luckenbach died while the case was on appeal.
According to David R. Fischer, attorney for the Luckenbachs, “Shorelines are seldom straight and many are curved inward to create coves. This case will have an impact upon how property owners on the shores of rivers, sloughs, lakes and the ocean divide up the use of those coves when building docks and mooring boats.” Fischer believes no case in California had decided this issue until now.