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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Publisher’s Notebook

• Speaking for the Public •

ANNE SOBLE

Although there are some people in Malibu who refuse to acknowledge California state law, those who do know that all beaches—as in every beach even when it is fenced off and marked private—belong to the public below the mean high tide line.
Whether these beaches are accessible is another matter. That is why public access is one of the thorniest and most controversial issues related to the California coastline. Many of the major access disputes have focused on the best local beaches.
Some beaches, such as the three Rivieras on Point Dume, are hard to get to but might be not in a class with other beaches, except for the exclusivity that results from the difficulty of getting to the area below the mean high tide line.
Getting to the Riviera triplets requires traversing the rocks from Paradise Cove, coming the opposite way from Westward Beach, the former Riviera 4 that was acquired by state condemnation, or using the stairs from the Headlands down to Pirate’s Cove.
Owners of some of the private dry sand areas above the mean high tide line may put up fences, signage, have a key system, and hire security guards, monitors, or beachmasters, to police the dry sand, but they know where their boundaries end.
Some of them, however, take chances and misrepresent access rights to those crossing below the mean high tide line, but this is becoming harder to do as the public learns its rights from groups that actively promote the public use of what it owns.
The Geffen easement opening, and now the Ackerberg easement opening, may be viewed with scorn by locals who think that “private” beaches should be off-limits to the public, but future state policy is headed in this direction despite the temporary concerns over backroom deals.
The winner in all this may be the California Coastal Commission. The panel’s action on the Evans/Edge development, followed by Ackerberg, might reinforce the notion of the agency as a champion of the public interest, as opposed to the facilitator of the mansionization of the state’s coastline.
Not that this wasn’t often the case in the past, but it’s a matter of perception.
The crux of the problem facing all enviro organizations, as well as government, is funding. It takes money to prepare access challenges and determine easement priorities. It also takes money to maintain easements.
Lack of financial resources may be a chief reason some enviro frontline organizations are making less than stellar decisions. Of concern is that people are starting to wonder if there are other questionable deals the public hasn’t learned about yet.

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