Longtime Coronado resident and lawyer Matthew Herron is picking a legal fight with the Coronado Yacht Club for not allowing public access to the facility that overlooks Glorietta Bay on Strand Way.
The Yacht Club, which limits its membership to 650 people, claims Herron “allegedly accosted a female” member, which resulted in him getting kicked out in 2018 after a 20-year relationship, according to legal records filed in San Diego County Superior Court.
The Yacht Club, which has been around since Franklin D. Roosevelt was first elected, stated that this could be the reason why Herron decided to file a complaint.
Herron, who is representing himself, filed suit earlier this year when the Yacht Club and Port of San Diego, which manages the public property, were given a Petition for Writ of Mandate.
Herron: Club is exclusivity at its finest
Herron says the Coronado Yacht Club is exclusivity at its finest, only allowing paid members onto the property to use their boat slips and other features on public land.
Herron points to a California Coastal Commission ruling in March 2018 that says “the existing structure is located on public tidelands, yet has historically blocked any physical opportunity for the general public to access the site.”
While the Coastal Commission, a state agency with quasi-judical control of land and public access along the state’s 1,100 miles of coastline, wants the club to provide public access to it, the Yacht Club has managed to avoid that for at least the last decade or so, Herron said.
So, that’s why he said he’s filed the complaint.
Yacht Club history
The petition was filed in February of this year, and the demurrer in May.
There’s a little bit of history to know before getting into the petition filed by Herron against the club and the Port.
Since its inception in 1932, the Yacht Club and the areas surrounding it – the shoreline, the bay and the ocean, belonged to the City of Coronado until the Port system was created.
The Port of San Diego was then established in 1962 wherein the yacht club entered into a long-term lease agreement that lasted 40 years.
That deal ended in 2011 and since then, the Yacht Club has been in short-term leases with the Port, each lasting about 4 to 5 years.
“To get a long-term lease, you have to commit to a substantial improvement. In this instance, the improvement was a replacement of the clubhouse,” Herron said in an interview with The Coronado News. “And that’s when the Coastal Commission said it triggered the need to allow the public access, at least through the property.”
The Yacht Club entered into these short term leases with the Port of San Diego in order to avoid building this pathway that was open to the public, Herron says.
However, in the Port and Coronado Yacht Club’s legal response or demurrer to Herron’s petition, it says, “Nowhere does the [San Diego Port District Act] state, or even suggest, that private operations on District Property must allow access to the “general public.””
Defendants: Claim has no legal basis
A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the pleader, and the entire demurrer claims that Herron’s petition holds no legal basis.
“There is no conflict between the Trust and uses of Trust property that necessarily exclude general public access to the land,” says the demurrer, although the demurrer does include that the Port and the Yacht Club do not contest that the Yacht Club is subject to the Public Trust Doctrine.
The Public Trust Doctrine, according to the California State Lands Commission, is to, “[protect] sovereign lands, such as tide and submerged lands and the beds of navigable waterways, for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public.”
Port officials said they had no comment other than what was mentioned in its legal filing.
Money for new clubhouse
The Yacht Club had raised money in 2010 for a new clubhouse, because the current building consists of two structures from the World War II era.
Even though the Yacht Club raised the money for the clubhouse, nothing has been done to build it because of building requirements from the Coastal Commission, Herron said.
In a 2013 newsletter from the Yacht Club to its members, a report from Rick Odiorne, commodore of the organization, states: “We are proceeding with the clubhouse portion of our project which will be slightly smaller…to be exempt from the Coastal Commission requirements.”
The newsletters, named the Whiskerpole, mentions throughout the years the problems and issues associated with the lease and the clubhouse.
The Yacht Club gave no comment.