California Landmark Cases on Littoral Rights

Case Law Regarding Littoral Rights: The California Supreme Court has explained the rights of an upland property owner with respect to littoral rights: "A littoral owner has a right in the foreshore adjacent to his property separate and distinct from that of the general public . This is a property right and is valuable, and although it must be enjoyed in due subjection to the rights of the public, it cannot be arbitrarily or capriciously destroyed. A littoral owner can enjoin as a nuisance interference by a private person with this right. A littoral owner has been held to have the right to build a pier out to the line of navigability; a right to accretion; a right to navigation (the latter right being held in common with the general public) ; and a right of access from every part of his frontage across the foreshore . This right of access extends to ordinary low tide both when the tide is in and when the tide is out. " (Marks v. Whitney (1971) 6 Cal.3d 251 at pp. 262-263.) Moreover, it is owners of land abutting on "the waterfront line who, under legal sanction, may ... build into the deeper public waters beyond." (Shirley v. City of Benicia (1897) 118 Cal. 344, 346.) Erection of a private wharf that would preclude upland owners from building a wharf on part of their waterfront constitutes a nuisance in the navigable waters of the state, which the upland owner may have abated. (Shirley v. Bishop (1885) 67 Cal. 543, 546; 63 Cal.Jur.3d (2005) Water, 774, p. 128.)