Attorneys seeking an injunction to ban the infamous Bay Boys from the beach they jealously guard in Palos Verdes Estates have received dozens of calls and emails from people wanting to join their lawsuit.
The class-action suit, filed last week in federal court by surfers Cory Spencer and Diana Milena Reed, names the affluent city, its police chief and eight alleged Bay Boys on behalf of all beachgoers who have been harassed at the Lunada Bay spot known as much for its hostile climate as its ideal break.
“We’re getting lots of calls from people saying, ‘Hey, that happened to me,’ ” said Kurt Franklin, a lead attorney on the case, who has specialized in class-action civil rights lawsuits for 20 years.
His Bay Area firm, Hanson Bridgett LLP, has been preparing the suit for months pro bono with Vic Otten, an environmental attorney in Torrance.
I’ve been getting at least 10 calls a day, and some are for incidents from 20 years ago,” said Otten, who grew up surfing in the South Bay. “They’re giving me videotapes and specific information about people we didn’t know about before, and the list is growing.
While filming interviews with TV news stations on the blufftop last week, Otten said Reed spotted a man she alleges was in a group that harassed her on the beach earlier this year.
Otten is adding him to the list, which he believes could exceed 100 names. But he said he is “proceeding very cautiously,” verifying that each person participated in harassment on the beach.
If they didn’t do anything, they don’t have anything to worry about,” Otten said. “Anybody that wants to stay out of it can call me and start talking about what they know.
The suit, which has not yet been served on the city or the named Bay Boys, seeks a gang injunction that would ban them from the popular surfing spot and force them to pay fines of up to $30,000 each.
Forensic investigators could search the Bay Boys’ smartphone and computer communications to find additional members. The surfers allegedly communicate in group chats and over walkie talkies and listen to police scanners to coordinate efforts above and below the bluffs to taunt nonlocals.
According to a November 2014 police report, an outsider who ventured into the water at Lunada Bay lost about $1,130 when one of three 20-year-olds tossed his belongings into the ocean. The outsider was warned when the other two young men tossed rocks at him from atop the bluffs while he stepped down the goat trail toward the water.
Franklin said if the class is certified in court, which could happen months from now, a notice will go out via surfing magazines and websites giving beachgoers the opportunity to opt out of being in the class. Then, down the line, those who did not opt out could file claims.
A judge could hypothetically call for penalties with a community benefit, such as improvements to the beach or an educational program promoting surfing etiquette, Franklin said.
Palos Verdes Estates could be fined up to $15,000 a day by the California Coastal Commission for letting the Bay Boys’ cliffside stone patio go unpermitted for years, which could add up to several million dollars, according to Otten.
“But this case isn’t about money, it’s about access,” he said.
Franklin, also a surfer, had to present the case to Hanson Bridgett LLP’s 14-member pro bono committee to take it on.
The firm did 5,000 hours of pro bono work in 2015, according to its website.
“If the city and Bay Boys want to defend this case, it’s easily going to be a seven-figure trial to defend,” Franklin said.
In undercover video footage taken on the beach by the Guardian newspaper last year, a Bay Boy bemoaned spending $10,000 on an attorney to defend him in a previous lawsuit.
“I don’t wanna go through that s— again,” he said.
Otten said the type of lawyers skilled enough to work on class-action suits wouldn’t let someone even walk in the door for that little.
Frank Ponce, a surfer from Palos Verdes Estates, criticized the lawsuit, saying the attorneys “are not even going after the right guys.”
“When you look at who they are going after, it’s the property owners who surf down there. The guys who cause the real trouble are not even on that list,” said Ponce, who claims to know many of the locals. “They loan me their kayaks. They are really nice people. They are business owners.”
Two of the men named in the suit as Bay Boys, Michael Rae Papayans and Brant Blakeman, answered phone calls from a reporter, but said they have no comment.
Papayans said he has not hired an attorney for the suit.
Last week, his grandmother disputed claims that the surfers are a gang of criminals.
“I can name practically everyone,” Sheila Papayans said, noting that a counter-suit against Reed is in the works. “They are not plotting against anyone. That’s not what they are interested in. They are probably down there talking about the weather and waves coming in.”