• Malibu Beach Access Semantics •
The issue of public access to private beaches, which are also public by law below the mean high tide line, is always guaranteed to result in lively exchanges. Such is the case again this week as two respondents weigh in on a letter on the subject of access to Broad Beach that ran in the last issue. That letter presented a perspective often forgotten—that of Malibuites who live a street over from the shore or on the land side of Pacific Coast Highway.
This week’s scribes make very similar points in well written letters, but they are quite different in tone. Both explain the Broad Beach protection project now underway in detail, but one does so while acknowledging an appreciation of the potential benefits to both the property owners and the public, which she welcomes as part of the beachfront lifestyle that she has enjoyed for 40 years.
The other letter just as articulately addresses the Broad Beach project but draws lines in the sand. He sees a need to include negative aspects of public presence that local residents have to be protected from. This public behaves improperly because it does not seem to value the beach the same way that those who live there do. This approach emphasizes the “non-public” aspects of Broad Beach and can perpetuate an adversarial perspective.
Which letter sends the more inclusive message to those in Malibu who are not beachfront owners and the rest of the many visitors who claim rightful access to the parts of the sand they own? The same points can be made better when a welcome sign is hung out. Those who are predisposed to judge Malibuites with broad brush strokes are able to see that public and private can and do coexist here, and we are not the selfish elitists we are portrayed to be.
Still, it’s not just an urban myth that there are a few property owners on the beach who have shouted down members of the California Coastal Commission and action groups, such as the Urban Rangers, who want to make the public aware of its beach rights. These residents may be a small minority, but they continue to reinforce the notion of the community’s “keep-out” mentality.
In order to get agency approval for the work that has impacted Pacific Coast Highway, the west end of Zuma Beach, as well as use of the public Broad Beach sand, improved public access has been assured. The era of illegal prohibitive signage, menacing guards and accessway barricades is over.
A part of this saga that doesn’t always receive the recognition that it warrants is that all coastlines are constantly changing. No one knows whether planetary phenomena may ultimately create situations where even the latest technology at any cost will be no match for the forces of nature.