Malibu Property Owners Fined Millions For Blocking Public Beach Access

The beach is for everyone to enjoy

Public beaches are one of our great natural resources in America. Even if you don’t live in one of the coastal cities, nearly all of us have visited a beach or at least dreamed of doing so some day. And there’s almost nothing that says “California” more than the image of sun-drenched crowds relaxing, surfing and generally living it up on the sandy edges of the Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately, some wealthy property owners in Malibu like the beach so much they wanted to keep it for themselves. But the state stepped in, fining two such owners $5.1 million for denying the public access to areas, including one spot nicknamed “Billionaire’s Beach.”

In recent years, California has made a highly visible effort to crack down on such scams, with some reports creating national headlines.

Meanwhile, pro-access groups like the Surfrider Foundation have also tried to bring attention to the issue and showed how other states like Oregon and Texas have successfully worked to keep their beaches open for all to enjoy.

As CNN pointed out, California law clearly states that all of the state’s 1,100 miles of sandy beach is public land and no one can be denied access to it.

In fact, if you want to visit any of these “hidden” beaches in the state, one site has put together an all-access guide along with some helpful tips on avoiding parking citations or other headaches from the wealthy property owners who will often look for any opportunity to harass unwelcome guests.

The egregious and illegal practice of beach blocking was first brought to wide attention by the Los Angeles Times back in 2003, with a report exposing how wealthy owners in and around Malibu went to great lengths to mislead the public into thinking very open beaches were somehow private: putting up fake “no parking” signs and even hiring security guards to chase visitors off from their perfectly legal right to make use of the beach areas.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Coastal Commission fined one husband and wife team who, “had long refused a commission request to remove an unauthorized gate, fence, stairway and deck.”

A second family agreed to settle with the commission, with part of the deal requiring them to build a public sidewalk and stairwell providing access to the ocean front next to a hotel they own and operate.

“This represents an attitude we often see in Malibu — that the shore is our private backyard,” Commissioner Mark Vargas told the paper. “It’s clear that they are dragging this on as long as they can and damaging the public’s right to use the beach.”

via David Leavitt / Twitter

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