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Southern California ranch land to be turned into public beach

Remote Jalama Beach, pictured here in a stock image.
Remote Jalama Beach, pictured here in a stock image.
John Murphy/Flickr Creative Commons

The California Coastal Commission on Thursday agreed to carve a mile of public beach out of ranch land that has been in private hands for more than a century.

The commission, which oversees coastal development, unanimously approved a deal that calls for the owners to fix damage to land they developed without permission and to transfer 36 acres (14.5 hectares) of coastal property to Santa Barbara County. It will be used to extend a current public park at remote Jalama Beach, 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The area is a rarity on the 21st century central and southern coast of California — free of urban sprawl, crowds, cookie-cutter developments and freeways.

The settlement is important because "the public has been shut out...for well over a hundred years," said Susan Jordan, executive director of the California Coastal Protection Network in Santa Barbara.

"You're getting over a mile of additional coastline (in) one of the richest and most diverse areas in California," she said.

The land sits between the south end of vast Vandenberg Air Force Base and Point Conception.

Once known as Bixby Ranch and owned by a famous California ranching family, the shoreline is part of what is now the Cojo Jalama Ranches that sprawl over more than 37 square miles, including 11 miles of coastline.

The transfer is part of a settlement negotiated by the Coastal Commission's enforcement staff to mitigate unpermitted development that included grading land and installing dozens of water wells.

The settlement also includes payment of $500,000 to fund public access and environmental projects.

Reached via a country road off Highway 1, Jalama Beach currently is visited by surfers, fishermen, whale watchers, picnickers and has campsites and a handful of cabins for overnight stays, as well as a small market and grill.