Environment & Science

Blocked public beach access remains an issue in California

A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake
A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake "no parking" signs to limit beach access to the public.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake
Beach goers lay out on the sand at Carbon Beach in Malibu. The beach has a history of conflict surrounding public access to the beach coveted by property owners with homes that abut the sand.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake
A new pathway to access Carbon Beach in Malibu is constructed on the 22400 block of Pacific Coast Highway. This year Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a provision that gives the California Coastal Commission the authority to fine homeowners who block public access the beach.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake
A gate opens to stairs leading down to a rocky section of the beach in Malibu. This year the California Coastal Commission gained the authority to issue hefty fines to homeowners who block public access to the coastline.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake
Tourists walk along Carbon Beach in Malibu, which used to have limited public access.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake
A locked fence is erected along the 21600 block of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu blocked public access from this stretch of coastline.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake
A beach access gate is locked, limiting access to the public. The California Coastal Commission is cracking down on homeowners posting fake signs and erecting barriers to limit beach access to the public.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A locked gate at 21660 Pacific Coast Highway blocks beach access in Malibu. For years coastal advocates have been pushing the California Coastal Commission to crack down on homeowners erecting landscaping, fences and fake
Carbon Beach in Malibu now has a clearly defined public beach access point off the Pacific Coast Highway. But the California Coastal Commission is pursuing homeowners who continue to block public access to the beach next to their property.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC


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Monday marked the traditional end of summer, a prime beach-going time. Two months ago the California Coastal Commission got new authority to fine landowners who block public access to beaches. But so far, the agency hasn't issued any citations. 

After years with little enforcement power, the Coastal Commission can now issue fines of $11,250 a day for people who block public beach access.  The commission's enforcement supervisor for Southern California, Patrick Veesart, said his division is in the final stages of developing an enforcement strategy, and he expects to start issuing fines in the fall.

Surfrider's Chad Nelsen is looking forward to that. We think that’s really a game changer and as a result people are going to be less likely to violate these beach access laws," he said. 

Nelsen says blocked access is particularly a problem along Southern California's largely developed coastline. He points to Strands Beach in Orange County. An access path to the beach remains gated for the fourth summer in a row even though a court agreed with Surfrider that the gate is illegal.  

"There are a couple hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening every day when these gates are closed and so it presents an inconvenience," he said. "It takes around 15-20 minutes to get to the beach otherwise you have to walk all the way around."

Nelsen’s hopeful that next summer those gates will be open.