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Coastal Commission OKs new public path to Malibu Beach

Last week, June gloom hung heavy along the deserted Escondido beach, leaving no one but a lone surfer skimming the distant waves.

This sandy beach is sandwiched between Jeffrey’s Restaurant to the east and Paradise Cove to the west, with no other entry points nearby.

But after a 40-year battle, the California Coast Board on Wednesday unanimously signed a deal with two homeowners to restore a public access point to Escondido Beach from the long-hidden Pacific Coast Highway. approved by

It marks the first new direct or “perpendicular” route from the highway to the beach in Malibu since 2015. Wealthy residents here are known to expend considerable resources to prevent such access to the coastline.

After a 40-year battle, the California Coast Board has approved a deal with two homeowners to restore a public access point to Escondido Beach from the long-hidden Pacific Coast Highway.

(Brian van der Brugg/Los Angeles Times)

State officials hailed the vote as a major victory for the Democrats. The California Coastal Act is one of the strongest land use laws in the United States and is intended to provide maximum protection for public access to the coast.

“Getting new access to the coast is very difficult and new vertical accessways are like unicorns, especially in Malibu, which don’t exist,” said Lisa Hage, executive director of the Coastal Commission. rice field. “It’s huge that we were able to settle this case without filing a lawsuit. It’s like flying to the moon or something,” she said.

At the heart of the matter are two adjacent properties along Block 27,900 of the Pacific Coast Highway, where enforcement officials are asking the homeowners and their predecessors to use a public walkway from the highway to the beach. , that is, alleging that he had violated the Coast Law by concealing the easement.

“Escondido Beach means ‘hidden beach’ in Spanish. There was no public access here, so for decades we couldn’t even find a public trail or even a public parking lot near the beach. It was hidden from a lot of people,” said a committee staff member.I have written in the report Ahead of Wednesday’s decision.

These properties are now owned by the families of former Paramount Pictures and MGM CEO Frank Mancuso and Barry Total Fitness founder Don Wildman. Mr. Wildman died in 2018, leaving the estate to his heirs.

However, according to the report, violations date back to the early 1980s, when previous owners Ken Chiate and Janet Chiate, Marilyn and Roger Walke, placed the easement on a gentle slope. He said he had mistakenly recorded along the steep slope instead of Arroyo.

A pair of driveways are surrounded by trees and gates.

Beachfront property owners installed unauthorized fences, driveways, and landscaping to obscure the easement to Escondido Beach.

(Brian van der Brugg/Los Angeles Times)

Lush greenery and trees surround the fence.

Trees and greenery surround the fence, hiding the easement to Escondido Beach.

(Brian van der Brugg/Los Angeles Times)

In the years and decades that followed, property line adjustments, metal fences, overgrown vegetation, paved driveways, and other encroachments placed by Chiate and later by Wildman led to walkways along the Pacific Coast Highway. and parking spaces became even less visible, the report said.

Law Enforcement Analyst Robert Modelmogg told the Commission, “Even if the public knew that a vertical public access easement was here, it would be unacceptable to physically use that easement. I couldn’t,” he said.

Wildman purchased the property in the mid-1980s and Mancuso in 1991.

According to the report, in the 1990s and 2000s, they argued that public walkways should be relocated elsewhere because they were difficult to build and improve on recorded easement areas.

In California, the coastline is considered public land up to the high tide line.

Laura Walsh, California State Policy Manager for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, said, “Every time we see access to this resource that is publicly available is blocked under California law. And we want to do our best to protect our resources.” Decision.

“We feel really unfair when our legitimate public resources are violated. It’s happened here in a very complicated way,” she said. “I think it’s amazing how different groups were able to work together towards a reasonable solution.”

Since 2013, when the commission secured a construction site from Carbon Beach property owner Lisette Ackerberg after decades of struggle, the public has sought a new access point to the beach from the Malibu highway. not obtained. That access point opened in 2015.

Music mogul David Geffen similarly spent years trying to block public access near the Carbon Beach property before settling with the commission in 2007.

“When anyone in the world mentions the word ‘Malibu,’ they think of going to the beach. They think of surfing, beach life, picnics, and everything else that comes with the California coast,” Harge said. “It’s really ironic that there are so few access points and we had to fight and fight and fight to get each one.”

Luxury homes and green hills rise along the coastline.

Under this agreement, property owners would remove the infringement and restore common easements. It also plans to install five new public parking lots and public toilets along the highway.

(Brian van der Brugg/Los Angeles Times)

Overlooking Point Dume, Escondido Beach is home to many wealthy residents who have long enjoyed access to secluded locations. Nearby are billionaires David Saperstein, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who broke California’s price record last month by buying a $200 million home in Paradise Cove.

Jeffreys is about 800m east of the easement. The Paradise Cove Café is 400 meters west and has a fee. Beach parking fee up to $65.

Walsh said the easement “reduces significantly the distance you have to walk, especially with equipment such as kayaks and surfboards.” “Also, the parking lot that will be built at the trailhead will be free, so it will be more equitable in that sense.”

Under this agreement, the families would remove the infringement and restore the easements of the people. It also plans to install five new public parking lots, public toilets and signs along the highway.

Wildmans plans to build walkways, parking lots and other facilities at an estimated cost of $3 million, according to the report. Mancuso will remove the unauthorized driveway, provide land for the easement, and pay a $600,000 fine.

The public value of the resolution is estimated at at least $4 million, but the costs taxpayers can avoid are likely to be much higher, according to committee staff.

Mancuso’s attorney, Alan Block, said no violations were disclosed when Mancuso purchased the property. He said the situation was a burden.

“The Mancuso family never touched this land, they bought it as is, but they understand the law, they have an agreement in place and they want the commission to approve it,” Bullock said. He said ahead of Wednesday’s meeting. vote.

Mr. Wildman’s heirs likewise inherited the offense. Attorney for the family, Susan Holly, said the family was happy with the decision.

“I am very pleased that the committee endorsed and approved the resolution,” Hori said. “And we are very grateful to our staff for taking the time to work with us on that resolution.”

But as important as this victory is to our people, it is even more meaningful as coastal conditions are changing due to sea-level rise, erosion and other effects of climate change.

“We are very urgent to open up as much access as possible because of sea level rise and climate change,” Hage said. “People need beaches more than ever. We want to get people to beaches while there are still beaches to go. So we are trying to do everything we can right now to secure future access.”

Commissioner Linda Escalante expressed her support for the agreement at the meeting, saying it would “help restore the legacy of both families who have accepted their responsibilities as custodians of this public trust land shared with the people of California.” Stated.

“I have lived in LA County for 35 years and have never set foot on this beach. .

Officials said the easement could open to the public as early as 2024 until the necessary permits and construction are completed.

Even on a cloudy day last week, I could see the charm of the area. Stately houses towered high above the cliffs. Calm waves lapping along the shore.

The only person on the beach that day was his neighbor Tom Pabst. He hadn’t heard of the plan, but said he was “absolutely” in favor of it.

“This is a beautiful beach,” he said. “The more public access, the better.”

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