UPDATE: The California Coastal Commission late Wednesday night granted the Lawson's Landing travel trailer owners five years to remove their units from the beachfront campground. The extension, requested by the campground owners, was approved on a 10-1 vote.
More than 200 privately owned travel trailers at Lawson's Landing must be removed in three years, the California Coastal Commission decided on a split vote Wednesday in San Rafael.
A representative of the Lawson family, which has owned the property south of Dillon Beach at the mouth of Tomales Bay since the 1920s, said the decision would put them out of business.
"I hear your frustration and I understand it," Commission Chairwoman Mary Shallenberger replied.
"I feel for everybody who has a trailer. This is sad," Commissioner Steve Blank said prior to the 7-4 vote to eliminate the aging trailers, which sit a stone's throw from the Pacific surf.
Blank and Shallenberger voted for the removal of the trailers.
Commissioner Steve Kinsey, a Marin County supervisor and the local representative on the state board, cast one of the four votes against the motion.
"Our dreams have been shattered," said J.D. Davis, a retiree and former Marine who has owned one of the oceanfront trailers for 30 years.
"It's a town, it's a community, and they destroyed that with their vote," Davis said after the meeting.
The proposal to eliminate the trailers came from the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, which has fought for strong protection of the 960-acre Lawson's Landing property, located about five miles from the Sonoma County line.
In adopting the proposal, the commission rejected a key element of the 156-page staff plan offering a compromise between protecting the rare coastal sand dunes at Lawson's Landing and providing low-cost public access to the coast.
The report recommended that trailer owners be limited to 90 days a year occupancy of their units, with a maximum of 30 days during the summer.
The rest of the year, the trailers would be offered to the public as rental units, under the staff plan.
Commissioner Esther Sanchez, an Oceanside city councilwoman, said the rental plan was "not acceptable" to the trailer owners and "improperly favors protection of a financial plan," not the environment.
Shallenberger said the rental concept was "a compromise that will not work."
Lawson's Landing owners said the $400-a-month rent paid by the trailer owners is the revenue stream their operation requires.
The staff plan allowed the Lawsons to maintain 417 RV and tent lots on open land, along with 233 trailers, clustered on about 43 acres.
The plan was the culmination of a five-year effort by the commission to establish legal use of the site, which the Lawsons have developed largely without permits.
Blank said the trailer owners had no "vested right" to remain on the property, which is owned by the Lawsons.
Commissioner Martha McClure, a Del Norte County supervisor, said she would have liked to allow 150 trailers to remain.
"I see people who have been stewards," she said, noting that the area hasn't been damaged by the trailer owners.
McClure and Kinsey joined Commissioners Wendy Mitchell and Richard Bloom, a Santa Monica city councilman, in voting against eliminating the trailers.