Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Hiding Public Land
June 23, 2013 7:11 PM   Subscribe

For years in Malibu, CA, homeowners have tried to hide public access points to local beaches in order to prevent people from using them. A recently released app has tipped off the public as to exactly where these access points are, causing an outcry from the homeowners.
posted by reenum (114 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are also a lot of public walking paths and unexpected stairways in the Hollywood Hills that homeowners will put gates over or post signs claiming no public access, because, you know, fuck you got mine.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:21 PM on June 23, 2013 [33 favorites]


We've seen the same issue in the UK with landowners blocking public rights of way. It's great that people are educating themselves.
posted by arcticseal at 7:21 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


... although, given how wealthy Malibu is, more people using public beaches may end up in a concerted attempt to stop them from being public any more.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:23 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Paging Lebowski...
posted by cavalier at 7:25 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


She’s spent more than 10 years working on projects to make the public beaches in Malibu actually public, culminating so far in the creation of Our Malibu Beaches. She raised more than $32,000 from more than 800 backers on Kickstarter in order to make the iPhone app free all summer and to develop an Android version.
I understand that they need to pay to recoup their development costs, but the Kickstarter really makes this seem like a blatant cash-grab.
posted by schmod at 7:30 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


"For years in Malibu, CA, homeowners have tried to hide public access points to local beaches in order to prevent brown people from using them."
posted by Brocktoon at 7:32 PM on June 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


... although, given how wealthy Malibu is, more people using public beaches may end up in a concerted attempt to stop them from being public any more.

Well, since state law has said for decades that all of California's beaches are public, the wealthy of Malibu can go ahead and fuck themselves.
posted by sideshow at 7:37 PM on June 23, 2013 [77 favorites]


Why California's Beaches are Open to Everyone
Los Angeles Urban Rangers go on 'safari' in the city - "The unofficial group teaches hikers about the shifting boundary between public and private space. Its latest outing: Malibu shores."
Coastal Access Program: Prescriptive Rights Program
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:37 PM on June 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh, I'm sure I could scare up some white folks that would scare 'em, too.

Anyways, good for the app maker, private beaches are barbaric and limiting access is just a way of trying to get around the law being civilised.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:39 PM on June 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


There are few local issues that infuriate me more than this one. I can feel my blood boiling already, so I will just say, No, fuck YOU, David Geffen, and go back to watching clips of Mr. Show.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:49 PM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love the homeowner complaints that they don't want people using the beach because there are no facilities like bathrooms and garbage cans. It's kind of like murdering your parents and asking for mercy on the basis of being an orphan; there are no beach facilities because the homeowners don't want any beach facilities, in an attempt to discourage the public.

These are our beaches. The people living on Carbon Beach trying to prevent the public from using them can kiss our collective butts.
posted by Justinian at 7:49 PM on June 23, 2013 [42 favorites]


""For years in Malibu, CA, homeowners have tried to hide public access points to local beaches in order to prevent brown people from using them.""

Oh, no, they want the poors of all stripes out.

I do get a kick out of complaints that they're paying for that view. You can find someone to pay for the Brooklyn Bridge too, doesn't mean you can own it.

I would, of course, support raising taxes to pay for more parks workers to keep the public access ways clean.
posted by klangklangston at 7:50 PM on June 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


klangklangston is correct; the only color that matters to most of these people is green.
posted by Justinian at 7:52 PM on June 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


These people would be glad to return to a society based on feudalism.
posted by Danf at 8:01 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The city of San Francisco requires public open space to be included in a lot of construction. But the property owners don't necessarily make them easy to find.

This does.
posted by Repack Rider at 8:02 PM on June 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Just don't do an app that shows how to find Barbara's house ....!!!!!
posted by HuronBob at 8:02 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seattle had/has a similar issue with so-called "shoreline street ends", though the access is usually to a 12-foot wide bit of lakeshore useful only for launching a kayak or dangling your feet for a bit; the nicest beach we have is inside a warehouse so that shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Project page is here; most of the access points I've seen are well-signed and maintained now.
posted by bizwank at 8:05 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really hate selfish rich people. Really hate them.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:08 PM on June 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


If by "outcry" you mean "when a reporter called up some homeowners they seemed kind of annoyed and wondered where people were going to park," then yes. This is OutrageFilter.
posted by eugenen at 8:11 PM on June 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Never had much problem finding the hidden beaches in Malibu. A lot of Anglelenos know those signs and barriers are bullshit, and they've usually been removed when someone complains. The bigger problem with access is parking/transit.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:11 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


you know, this isn't just a "rich people" thing. And it might be a more interesting conversation if we took that little title off the problem.

I live in a small town, and have a house that is part of a neighborhood around a lake that was platted 100 years ago. When it was drawn up, there were little 20 foot access points to the lake every four or five houses. Originally this was done to allow fire vehicles access to the lake to fill pumpers, but the points were also used for folks to launch boats, go swimming, fishing, etc. Over the 100 years most of these have disappeared, hidden by trees, built on, crowded out...usually intentionally by the folks with neighboring property... but the folks doing this weren't that rich, most of those lots were bought for next to nothing and are still owned by the same families, they were just greedy about that lake frontage and didn't want the back-lot folks to hang out next to their yard.

So, putting the "rich folks" tag on the problem is like putting any social/economic, ethnic, religious, racial, age, sex, or gender identification tags on a problem, it probably just exposes some hidden ...' ism .

So, yell about the people, don't yell about the rich people.
posted by HuronBob at 8:18 PM on June 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


Wasn't a major problem with the Cali home price bubble that there isn't much property tax in California to begin with? S aren't these people not really paying their fair share to begin with?
posted by slapshot57 at 8:18 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Attention rich people: to take the sting out of having to share your private reality with sub-millionaire filth, just tell yourself that the beachgoers are actually your acolytes, come to gaze in awe upon your stately pleasure dome and bask in your magnificence. Every once in a long while, come out onto one of your terraces and raise your hands beneficently to the admiring rabble, and in a ringing voice, grant them permission to worship you freely.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:21 PM on June 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


From Room 641-A's link, a pleasant alternative strategy from some of the homeowners:

(Two days later, Broad Beach property owners engaged in a similar public access dispute started a massive grading project that piled up eight-foot-high sand dunes, leaving the public with little beach to visit. Whether the grading was legal is subject to debate.)
posted by mediareport at 8:22 PM on June 23, 2013


Also, throw crusts of day old bread and other leavings from your bountiful table, and perhaps forgive their sins.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:25 PM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Never had much problem finding the hidden beaches in Malibu. A lot of Anglelenos know those signs and barriers are bullshit, and they've usually been removed when someone complains.

Yes. I used to go to them occasionally, and walked right past the cones etc. But really, the popular public beaches were mostly better and had facilities, the only problem being they were sometimes crowded. But what kind of amateur goes to the beach on holidays?
posted by bongo_x at 8:33 PM on June 23, 2013


We get a fair bit of that around these parts too. Usually it doesn't go further than planting shrubs/ bushes to obscure signs or the removal of signs; however, I have seen the odd fake sign asserting 'no public access'.

I usually tell my kids to be quiet and respectful of homeowners when we're out walking/ swimming/ rock-pooling; but we make a special exception in these cases.
posted by Tasmanian_Kris at 8:37 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a form of stealth privatization. They can't get the state of California to sell them the beaches, so they just go ahead and act like they bought them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:53 PM on June 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


HuronBob: you know, this isn't just a "rich people" thing

Isn't it though? I get that you're trying to draw a contrast between, say, Grandpa, who bought this property for a steal back in the forties, and David Geffen who probably bought in recently for a figure ending in '-illion.' But in either case, these stories are about people who privately own something valuable (beachfront property) and who use their proximal influence to try and exclude the public from something valuable that they do not rightfully own (the beach). So whether or not you've got lots of liquid assets, this is still a case of fuck-you-I-got-mine, which is always about having more wealth than others.
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 8:59 PM on June 23, 2013 [37 favorites]


I love the homeowner complaints that they don't want people using the beach because there are no facilities like bathrooms and garbage cans. It's kind of like murdering your parents and asking for mercy on the basis of being an orphan; there are no beach facilities because the homeowners don't want any beach facilities, in an attempt to discourage the public.

I just imagine Lucille Bluth making those comments.
posted by drezdn at 9:12 PM on June 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


....which is always about having more wealth than others.....

wealth is not necessary to foster greed and selfishness... It's not the "wealth" that causes people to act this way, it's being selfish. Some of the most selfish people I've known have been poor as dirt, and some of the most compassionate and generous people have been wealthy.

My "point" is that we often attribute character traites to people due to some 'ism that we believe. We believe people are "x" because they are "y". That never goes well, and is usually distorted thinking. It would be great if, here at Metafilter, we could get away from that kind of thinking and conversation. Until we can prove that, in every instance of "x" there is "y", let's cut the non-y x'ers a bit of slack and not paint them all with a broad brush....
posted by HuronBob at 9:12 PM on June 23, 2013 [11 favorites]


There isn't going to be any beach at Malibu to fight over access to at the rate it's disappearing. Beach erosion is a natural process, but it's been exacerbated by rising sea levels and worsening storms. But the Malibu residents have a plan for that, too: they're looking to move the sand from more popular beaches to the south to their own. They've been rebuffed from taking Manhattan Beach and Dockweiler Beach, but efforts will continue until the money wins out. The stupid thing is, the replacement sand doesn't affect the process that is eating away at the beach at all, so in a few years all that replacement sand will be gone again.

Perhaps the Coastal Commission should build a 20-foot high impenetrable steel wall, modeled on the US-Mexico border fence, along the Malibu high tide line to protect those precious mansions from the ocean, and vice versa.
posted by Fnarf at 9:20 PM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wasn't a major problem with the Cali home price bubble that there isn't much property tax in California to begin with? S aren't these people not really paying their fair share to begin with?

Not necessarily; the problem with property tax in California isn't that the tax rate is too low, it's that the yearly increase is capped no matter how much the value of the property increases (so long as the same entity maintains ownership). So a rich person who bought a property last year is paying his or her fair share while a middle class person who bought a property twenty-five years ago would be paying much less than he or she should be paying.

As a class it does privilege wealthier Californians simply because they tend to buy property more than non-wealthy Californians, but it doesn't necessarily mean that these particular wealthy Californians are paying too little given many of them probably bought their homes relatively recently.
posted by Justinian at 9:22 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


From what's been quoted, it doesn't sound like a "rich people" thing to me either. You see exactly the same thing happening in many kinds of NIMBY scenarios. Maybe the zoning next to your property has always allowed the development someone is proposing to build and which will now generate more traffic, but you just took it for granted that things would not change. Or you're used to having easy street parking for guests, but now a commercial development on the next block over (fully in line with the city plan) will probably cause more people to take up "your" parking. Or the city wants to build a sidewalk on a part of the road right of way, which you had always just assumed was part of your lawn.

People simplify the by-laws and policies into apparent entitlements, often incorrectly. They think the free parking, uninterrupted vistas, front yard extensions, etc. are something that was part of the deal, so they're pissed off when those things are taken away. And they're not entirely wrong, since generally the future of a street is much closer to what's there now rather than what's technically possible in by-laws and such.
posted by parudox at 9:23 PM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I appreciate the links to similar projects to retake public space in Seattle and San Francisco.

Way back in the 1970s, when I was growing up in Connecticut, there was an activist trying to draw attention to a similar situation. Our state had a "wet sand = public" law as well, along with property owners pretending that was not the case and often convincing local police to arrest "trespassers" on the public lands. Anyway, if memory serves this activist walked the entire Connecticut coastline to draw attention to the issue. Anyone remember the guy's name?
posted by LarryC at 9:35 PM on June 23, 2013


Huron Bob: It's not the "wealth" that causes people to act this way, it's being selfish...

But you need both to have the problem described here... I'm sure there are selfish, non-owning visitors to the beaches in Malibu who wish that "all these people" visiting the beach along with them would go home (this is the fuck-you part), but actually denying (or attempting to deny) access to the beach doesn't work without having material control over beach-related assets (this is the I-got-mine part).

My point was that the people defending "their" beachfront from outsiders are rich, because they own something that has value to others. But I will acquiesce to your point that the selfishness, and not wealth, is the motivating factor.
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 9:40 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, yell about the people, don't yell about the rich people.

Thank god someone has spoken out in defense of the uptrodden. They don't get nearly all of the respect there is.
posted by srboisvert at 9:46 PM on June 23, 2013 [34 favorites]


Living in Orange County, I'm always confused by how public access to the beach is supposed to work. The Malibu example makes it clear that all CA beaches are supposed to be public and this app now makes it easy to find the public access points. So now I'm thinking ... there shouldn't be any private beaches in California. However, there are private beaches all over Orange County. Tiny gorgeous beach coves that are only accessible by stairs inside gated communities or by swimming around large sea cliffs (people have tried this and drowned trying to get onto a private beach). So where are the public access points for these Orange County beaches? For example, see Three Arch Bay, Emerald Bay, Monarch Bay, etc.
posted by Arbac at 9:46 PM on June 23, 2013


I'm glad she did this, but in truth, most of these access points weren't all that secret.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:47 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank god someone has spoken out in defense of the uptrodden. They don't get nearly all of the respect there is.

Really, that's what you took away from my comments?
posted by HuronBob at 9:48 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not the "wealth" that causes people to act this way, it's being selfish...

The jury may be out on whether or not wealth "causes" people to act this way, but it's certainly what enables them to do so. You need capital in order to buy waterfront property and then to exclude others who lack it.
posted by threeants at 9:52 PM on June 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


I like the looks on the faces of the beachfront residents as they sit there, and sit there, and sit there; as they wait for a gap to back out of their five feet away from the road garage door onto the small, narrow, downhill, curvy, and fast road. Or some have to use a buddy carrying a highway cone to do a physical 'hi, we're having to back out now' type of traffic diversion.

Wouldn't really want to live in a narrow shoebox of a home either. Yeah, some are mansions. I mean, what if Pepperdine decided to do an IPO, or condo that hill out front? OK, whatever. But most of the beachfront properties are shoeboxes, zero yard; maybe a yard or two one each side (as in 36" of space until the neighbors house is like, right there vertically...); or row condos with undoubtedly steep HOAs. Some even have enclosed 10' x 6' gardens. Neat to think cool thoughts about the weather and the ocean; but realistically... I think a lot of people would go bonkers with boredom.

Not sure what the draw to the beach is, and barring ?the people? leaving refuse behind; I don't see why homeowners would have issues with people using the beaches, and I'd think the parking situation itself would preclude large crowds, unless Greyhounds were dropping off busloads.

Cali can be such an illusion. Everything it there, but for much of it the economy is so steep that it bars participation from many of the residents.
posted by buzzman at 9:58 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


You need capital in order to buy waterfront property and then to exclude others who lack it.

So, the question becomes, do ALL people with beachfront property that are able to deny access via the public access points do so??? (what's the character for raised eyebrows here???)

Because, if you can show me that data, I'll just roll over and die on my point.

All Beagles are dogs, not all dogs are Beagles....
posted by HuronBob at 9:58 PM on June 23, 2013


What's to complain about? Growing up in Illinois, if you wanted to get into our nearby large state park without going all the way around to a real entrance, you snuck through people's back yards bordering the park. If they saw you, they yelled at you and chased you away. If they didn't see you, you got in. That's what made it fun.

It's all part of the game and I'm happy to have players on both sides.
posted by michaelh at 10:01 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


At least California has sane beach laws. Washington state allows ownership out to the low-tide line, which is criminal. There are beaches all around us here on the island (we're not in the waterfront tax bracket, sadly), and we can't walk on any of them except in a few spots.
posted by maxwelton at 10:05 PM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Living in Orange County, I'm always confused by how public access to the beach is supposed to work. The Malibu example makes it clear that all CA beaches are supposed to be public and this app now makes it easy to find the public access points. So now I'm thinking ... there shouldn't be any private beaches in California. However, there are private beaches all over Orange County. Tiny gorgeous beach coves that are only accessible by stairs inside gated communities or by swimming around large sea cliffs (people have tried this and drowned trying to get onto a private beach). So where are the public access points for these Orange County beaches? For example, see Three Arch Bay, Emerald Bay, Monarch Bay, etc.

Generally, the law gets implemented when development is proposed on a beachfront property, rather than the state using eminent domain to force everyone to allow access easements at one go. The Coastal Commission has only been around since the 70s, and regulations have evolved since then, so the properties you're talking about just might not have had any development large enough to cross the threshold during that time period. Or the property owners were able to successfully argue that there's no actual beach or pull some other sort of legal gymnastics.

I've worked on a bunch of beachfront houses in San Diego, and if the proposed development crosses the threshold for a coastal permit, the owners are required to provide a 25' access easement on beach that's on their property (the west property line is the mean high tide line), and they need to provide an access from a public way if they're more than a certain distance from an already existing one. So, it happens, it's just slow, and there are some places where access is nearly impossible anyway.
posted by LionIndex at 10:12 PM on June 23, 2013


The actual beachfront the homeowners are being ever-so-precious about is pretty crappy, from a beach-goers perspective. It's a narrow strip of sand, so when you're on the beach, you have this sort of creepy, ominous, cold presence of these shoebox homes perched on pilings looming behind you.

I spent an idle summer rooting out all the access points, and I'm happy to report that the public beaches north of fancypants Malibu are so much prettier. Zuma is iconic, and has wondefully clean water (unlike the 'bu, which consistently gets terrible water quality grades). The state beaches north of Zuma are lovely gems as well.

I'm glad the access points are being publicized, but I think most Angelenos who make the trek to Malibu won't choose to flock to those little slices of beach. They ain't all that.

And yes, living right on the ocean is not all that great, as buzzman suggests. It's LOUD, everything corrodes, and the traffic shitshow on summer weekends getting from Malibu to Santa Monica on PCH is hideous. Many people have those beach houses as second (or third, fourth, etc.) homes. They often sit empty.
posted by nacho fries at 10:14 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


wealth is not necessary to foster greed and selfishness...

“The rich really do seem to be ruder/more selfish/less empathetic than the poor, and science says so.”
posted by tallus at 10:16 PM on June 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Looking through the Kickstarter page, I love that one of their corporate sponsors for the app is Dr Bronner's. I'm sure open beack access is also essential to All-One Beauty somehow. Dilute! Dilute! OK!

Here in Oregon (California's Canada / Washington's Mexico) all beaches are public property. (All thanks to the Oregon Beach Bill, yet another Tom McCall joint.) So I think we spend our time naming things after the Devil instead. The Devil's Punchbowl is probably my favorite.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:17 PM on June 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


“The rich really do seem to be ruder/more selfish/less empathetic than the poor, and science says so.”

From your article... "the reality is that most of our research is conducted on people in the middle of the social class range-- we rarely/never have corporate CEOs or homeless people taking part in our studies. To really understand how social class influences behavior requires a broadening out of our research to other communities of very wealthy or very poor individuals."

therefore????
posted by HuronBob at 10:21 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


The jury may be out on whether or not wealth "causes" people to act this way, but it's certainly what enables them to do so.

If only it were so simple. When I lived in nearby Venice... a kinda shitty part of Venice well away from the beach or canals, you'd be amazed how territorial local residents (a mostly barely working class lot at the time) can get about the patch of street in front of their bungalow, when eager beachgoers wanted to park on a public street and walk a half mile to the boardwalk. Pretty funny how folks felt entitled to that parking spot without being millionaires.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:25 PM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here in Ontario, property rights can extend all the way to the water, even on the Great Lakes. I understand that beach-goers can be loud, messy assholes but it would be nice to have the right (as a tax payer) to stroll along the edge of a public waterway.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:27 PM on June 23, 2013


Many people have those beach houses as second (or third, fourth, etc.) homes. They often sit empty.

Really, everyone needs a Kato Kaelin to pick up that kind of slack for them. Basically a quasifamous drifter, couchsurfer to the A-list; basically a bum but a vetted bum with impeccable hanger-on credentials for just this sort of not-standing-empty third beach house purpose.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:34 PM on June 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


because, you know, fuck you got mine.

Also because fuck you I got yours too
posted by Hoopo at 10:36 PM on June 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Washington state allows ownership out to the low-tide line

Washington state allows people to DRIVE THEIR CARS AND TRUCKS on the damn beach, any beach, even public beaches. It is not unusual to see people dig a hole in the sand and change their oil into it; the beaches are littered with empty plastic oil cans (along with every other kind of plastic garbage imaginable).
posted by Fnarf at 10:49 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the late 80s I was a high school student and frequented these beaches and this has been a problem since then. Broad Beach was also notorious for old skeevy guys who would offer us high school girls drinks and such if we would just come up to their house with them. I guess they knew we were ditching school so unlikely to turn them in.

Not to mention most of the people in Malibu are still on septic systems making their impact on the beaches so much grosser than just being skeevy NIMBY s.
posted by fshgrl at 10:55 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is not unusual to see people dig a hole in the sand and change their oil into it
This is one of those sad facts that I would be far happier having never known. Please tell me that this does not literally happen, and is the teenagers' metaphor for some common sex act.

At least in Santa Barbara, there's the idea that the oil on the beach comes from the tar sands or oil shales or whatever it is. (And certainly nothing from those large drilling platforms dotting the horizon. Nope, not suspicious at all.)
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:56 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Please tell me that this does not literally happen,

Seen it with my own eyes.

Keep in mind that most of Washington's ocean beaches are pretty remote, way out in the boonies. The only towns are small for the most part -- Westport, Ocean Shores, Long Beach. No LAs or San Diegos or Santa Barbaras anywhere to be found. And rural areas tend to have a lot more casual ideas about how to manage the environment. It's kind of hillbilly, to be honest.
posted by Fnarf at 11:10 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


More on wealth versus ethics. A discussion of the paper, “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior," is included.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 PM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The wealthy haven't done anything to deserve this kind of treatment, guys.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:19 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't see why homeowners would have issues with people using the beaches,

I live very close to a public amenity (not a beach) and we knew moving in that, of course it would be used by the public, and mostly we're fine with that.

But I'll tell you what, there are some real assholes out there, people who have literally no respect for the homeowners near by, no respect for the facilities provided to them, and generally no respect for their fellow man.

And that's just a small, local park. I can't imagine the kind of dickheads you'd run into during a hot summer day at the beach or other touristy spot.

None of this excuses people deliberately blocking up public access and other tomfoolery but, you know, I can sure understand how it comes to that.
posted by madajb at 11:34 PM on June 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yeah, for all my "man the barricades and sharpen the guillotine" rhetoric above, I have had exactly the experience madajb describes, on an ongoing basis, for years.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:42 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm definitely for this -- I like beaches and I don't like random rich guys pretending they own what is equally mine -- but if you make a hidden beach popular, you have to be ready for increased taxes to pay for keeping the beaches safe and clean and environmentally sound. Depending on the size of the increased beach crowds, you might have to pay for installing and maintaining toilets and trash cans, cleaning the sand, and adding new police patrols, life guards, environmental inspections, parking, and bus stops.
posted by pracowity at 12:13 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a citizen of L.A. County and I definitely don't mind paying a few extra shekels for something that's rightfully mine.

Full disclosure: I've been on the L.A. Urban Rangers' Malibu beach tour. I feel very strongly about these beaches and easements being accessible to the public.
posted by mirepoix at 12:46 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Attention rich people: to take the sting out of having to share your private reality with sub-millionaire filth, just tell yourself that the beachgoers are actually your acolytes, come to gaze in awe upon your stately pleasure dome and bask in your magnificence. Every once in a long while, come out onto one of your terraces and raise your hands beneficently to the admiring rabble, and in a ringing voice, grant them permission to worship you freely.

Don't tell them this. Most of them are in the entertainment industry, and they won't make public appearances without getting paid for it. So you'll put the idea in their heads to charge admission for access to the beaches.
posted by ardgedee at 3:02 AM on June 24, 2013


"Beaches near to but not of the red-faced, angry stars" tours, anyone?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:51 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The tragedians of the commons?
posted by pracowity at 4:09 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Massachusetts has ownership out to the low tide lie, too, which I still think is barbaric. Owning the beach? Entire private islands where no one is even allowed to land? Can't wrap my head around that mess, and I'm glad that people in Cali are fighting to keep what belongs to the public open.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:20 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This happens in Florida, too; people will sometimes plant saw palmettos in the beach access easements.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:22 AM on June 24, 2013


At least in Santa Barbara, there's the idea that the oil on the beach comes from the tar sands or oil shales or whatever it is. (And certainly nothing from those large drilling platforms dotting the horizon. Nope, not suspicious at all.)

The first place I ever went in the US where people couldn't drink the tap water (around 1970) was SB. I believe it was the result of the first really famous mass oil spill in the country the year before.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:03 AM on June 24, 2013


Washington state allows people to DRIVE THEIR CARS AND TRUCKS on the damn beach, any beach, even public beaches.

This really is horrible, and I always shake my head when I see it. I've seen people driving on Texas beaches, and on some Florida beaches as well (Daytona). Aside from all the pollution issues (oil and stuff dripping from the cars, plus the noise and exhaust), it seems like a safety issue too... do people ever get run over/hit by a car while they're lying on the beach? Sigh.

Beaches should be just for foot traffic, not cars.
posted by kira at 5:57 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Frank O'Hara.
posted by pracowity at 6:06 AM on June 24, 2013


Blocking a public access easement is more or less a textbook example of a public nuisance. The problem is that a private citizen can't pursue it unless they suffer some additional/different/unique harm (depending on whose version of the rule you like, here's a CA jury instruction). And, I suppose, an owner who effectively blocks an easement for long enough, even in some low-key under-the-radar way (trees, shrubs, etc) could claim that it was terminated by prescription. Although I wonder whether it would matter there if the easement was never built (and then if the owner built over it from the get go).

I think I read a California case about existing construction vs. a never built beach easement a couple years ago, in which the owners were not forced to demolish the offending part of their home, but my lazy googling isn't finding it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:14 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


the owners were not forced to demolish the offending part of their home

Would it be OK if others demolished the offending part of their home at no cost to the owners?
posted by pracowity at 6:31 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh how cute, they think the live in a feudal aristocracy. Wait, what's that? Oh. Nevermind.
posted by symbioid at 6:32 AM on June 24, 2013


Instead of trying to make some proprietary mapping system, why not use OpenStreetMap which is a free as in speech map for people to markup and annotate, and helps the larger community with all sorts of map-notes not just your own little cause.

Oh hey! She's sorta like those rich private property owners, wanting her own walled garden to information. How cute.
posted by symbioid at 6:35 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


#There isn't going to be any beach at Malibu to fight over access to at the rate it's disappearing. Beach erosion is a natural process, but it's been exacerbated by rising sea levels and worsening storms.

Two and a half men

#In the late 80s I was a high school student and frequented these beaches and this has been a problem since then. Broad Beach was also notorious for old skeevy guys who would offer us high school girls drinks and such if we would just come up to their house with them. I guess they knew we were ditching school so unlikely to turn them in.

see also.
posted by rongorongo at 6:40 AM on June 24, 2013


Bunny Ultramod: There's a local guy here in Somerville, MA, who maintains a map of local obscure ramps, stairs, and paths. I love that this kind of stuff is getting documented in places people can find it.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:42 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sometimes the limited access is state sponsored. I live in coastal MA, and the number of beaches that are open to the public is actually quite large. Only problem is the limited parking requiring resident stickers. So basically "If you don't live here don't swim here". In Nahant, MA the town does a walk-about every year to claim or reclaim their right to access to the sea.
posted by Gungho at 7:08 AM on June 24, 2013


Oh hey! She's sorta like those rich private property owners, wanting her own walled garden to information. How cute.

I think this is kinda shitty. If you think the information gathered and made freely available at LA Urban Rangers should be on oMaps, then take the initiative to put it there yourself. This woman decided to make an app, and for better or worse (and whatever it says about our consumerist city and its society) it's probably going to have a much greater impact then some added oMaps POIs would.

Also, we get it, the silly bougie woman made an app, "how cute."
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:08 AM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I visited Hawai'i recently and was surprised at how well marked the public beach access was. Particularly at the fancy resorts Kona-side on the big island; you'd drive up to this expensive hotel and there were polite, well indicated signs to public parking and public beach access. I suspect that was a requirement for them doing business in the state.
posted by Nelson at 7:16 AM on June 24, 2013


And realistically, for getting along with the local populace, which has always been a tense, multidimensional relationship.

In Hawaii, the hard beaches to find are the 'local' undeveloped beaches that are more communally/traditionally known spots than officially recognized parks . And it's usually the locals who take a proprietary attitude vs. tourists, unassimilated haoles and other intruders. While it certainly makes it easier, you don't have to be rich or even own property to be a dick about sharing a beach (viz. territorial surfers).
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:27 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's how they do it in New Zealand:
New Zealand coastal property ownership is a patchwork of old and new laws, meaning a beach walk can take you across land controlled by the Crown, local councils, and private owners without your knowing.

The Queen's Chain has become a catch-all term for strips of publicly owned land next to the foreshore, rivers and lakes, initially set aside for access but also increasingly used for conservation. The chain refers to an early surveyor's tool made of 100 links, a total of 66ft or 20m.

[T]he Queen's Chain is really a shorthand term for an incomplete series of publicly owned strips of land next to beaches, lakes and rivers. . . [including] marginal strips and esplanade reserves, depending on whether they are reserved from Crown land or private land. Marginal strips of 20m are reserved along rivers, lakes and the foreshore when Crown land is sold. Esplanade reserves [also 20m wide] are created by local councils.

It is estimated that some form of Queen's Chain currently applies to about 60 per cent of [New Zealand's] coast, lakefronts and significant rivers . . . . [and t]he Government has indicated it wants to expand public access to the coast further.

[. . . ]

A small number of coastal property owners have titles down to the low tide mark [foreshore]. . . . If foreshore is in private hands, the owners can ask you to stay out, and could prosecute for trespass. But it is highly unlikely they could fence such land off because local councils are unlikely to approve such structures under the Resource Management Act.

A larger category of landowners hold titles down to high water mark . . . which is further inland. . . . [T]o fence them off property owners would have to get resource consent from the City Council, which has a policy against structures on the beach.

Unless a property has title to the foreshore, though, you can still legally walk along the area between high and low tides.
posted by Herodios at 7:49 AM on June 24, 2013


Massachusetts has ownership out to the low tide lie, too, which I still think is barbaric. Owning the beach? Entire private islands where no one is even allowed to land? Can't wrap my head around that mess, and I'm glad that people in Cali are fighting to keep what belongs to the public open.

People in CA own out to the tide line as well, they just have to cede the beach portions of their properties as a public easement.

I think I read a California case about existing construction vs. a never built beach easement a couple years ago, in which the owners were not forced to demolish the offending part of their home, but my lazy googling isn't finding it.

I know of one in the Point Loma part of San Diego that got some coverage in the Reader. If that's the one you're thinking of, the owner eventually sold the property and the next guy started complying with the requirements, but he was really just trying to flip the property anyway. In addition to the access easement issue, the building was a historically designated property, which means that in exchange for a property tax reduction you provide public visual access to the historical building (i.e. people can see it from the street). The prior owner covered up the open metal gates that provided that access with solid panels, so he got busted on that too. Basically, a total douche.
posted by LionIndex at 8:08 AM on June 24, 2013


Also, the easements are always there - there doesn't have to be anything built to make them exist. They're just notes in the deed and lines on a surveyor's drawing, and they will always exist. Enforcing them is another matter.
posted by LionIndex at 8:10 AM on June 24, 2013


Easements are property rights and they can lapse or otherwise be terminated. Including by failure to exercise them (i.e. not building a public accessway), or though a conveyance under certain circumstances, among other ways.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:13 AM on June 24, 2013


In this case, I don't think that's true. If the easement were to somehow be terminated (by adverse possession or something), it could just be reinstated at a later date when the property owner wants to rebuild their house or something.

Another part of the Coastal Act makes it really difficult to build seawalls, so if you just wait long enough, all those houses will crumble into the sea, and won't be able to be rebuilt.
posted by LionIndex at 8:59 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"For years in Malibu, CA, homeowners have tried to hide public access points to local beaches in order to prevent brown people lazy litterbugs from using them."
posted by HyperBlue at 9:10 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wrote in a 2010 Ask comment:

In Malibu, the Los Angeles Urban Rangers would give tours of public beaches fronted by private homes. My friend said that on the tour, snooty homeowners glared threateningly at the visitors traipsing all over "their" beach until they saw them pull out a tape measure to determine the exact boundary of public and private, at which point they realized the visitors knew exactly what the law was and would not be deterred from obeying it.


I love that story. The more people who use the beach thusly, the faster the owners will accustom themselves to sharing.
posted by salvia at 9:39 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


In this case, I don't think that's true. If the easement were to somehow be terminated (by adverse possession or something), it could just be reinstated at a later date when the property owner wants to rebuild their house or something.

I've only seen bits and pieces of the Coastal Act, but that's not how easements work doctrinally. Termination of an easement by prescription permanently extinguishes the interest once adjudicated. Just like adverse possession results in issuance of new title by operation of law that extinguishes the previous title and smaller interests given out under that title.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:41 AM on June 24, 2013


There seems to be a little confusion above (on preview, I'm not referring specifically to the comment by snuffleupagus). The beach is public up to the mean high tide line. I've heard that a good approximation is the line created by seaweed deposited by the receding tide.

There are sometimes additional beach easements extending for 25' or so inland from there, and there are sometimes perpendicular path easements to faciitate access. I don't know what's going on in Orange County, for instance, but worst case (e.g., some kind of cliffs that prevent terrestrial movement), you could still kayak in to any sandy section you wanted to enjoy.
posted by salvia at 9:46 AM on June 24, 2013


re: the above, I would note that termination of an easement abandonment (as opposed to prescription) probably is unlikely -- as for that to happen, my sense is that the public entity holding the easement would have to improve it and then abandon it, maybe to the point of removing the improvements (or acquiescing in or ignoring their removal).

Which is likely why the more assholish owners appear to be doing things that could trigger prescription if ignored long enough.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:49 AM on June 24, 2013


>> it could just be reinstated at a later date when the property owner wants to rebuild their house or something.

> I've only seen bits and pieces of the Coastal Act, but that's not how easements work doctrinally. Termination of an easement by prescription permanently extinguishes the interest once adjudicated.


Maybe "renegotiated" or "reacquired" would be better words than "reinstated?" Renegotiated in exchange for entitlements, including whatever variance is needed this time?
posted by salvia at 9:57 AM on June 24, 2013


snuffleupagus makes a good point that you don't have to own the surrounding property to feel proprietary/protective of a beach. Hawaii has some of the strongest coastal/beach access laws. (Re: other state law, I know Oregon's Beach Bill was memorably depicted in the documentary The Politics of Sand) Combined with complex and contested histories of colonialism, tourism, and concentrated land ownership, it's not surprising how cranky people can get. This is not my area of research as an urban planning grad student, but definitely something I continue to keep an eye on!

Also I distinctly remember my beachfront north Chicago suburb (Lake Michigan is effectively an ocean when you're a little kid) instituting non-resident vs resident beach park access fees that were understood to mean "hey poorer browner people from the more westerly suburbs and Chicago proper, keep out, mostly, but ok fine come if you can pony up the cash."
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:59 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Renegotiated in exchange for entitlements, including whatever variance is needed this time?

Yes, but imposition of a new one through permitting isn't always allowed even when it seems like it should be.

Nollan v. California Coastal Commission (a different but similar case than the one I was trying to recall, Nollan was earlier and went all the way up.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2013


Also I distinctly remember my beachfront north Chicago suburb (Lake Michigan is effectively an ocean when you're a little kid) instituting non-resident vs resident beach park access fees...

Ah yeah, that. Once during a visit, I was staying with friends in Evanston and we all decided to go to the beach. When we got there, all of our IDs were checked, and those of us who were visiting had to walk all the way back to the house to grab some cash. It smacked a bit less of racism and a bit more of petty tyranny.
posted by davejay at 10:06 AM on June 24, 2013


Here's how they do it in New Zealand:

And in Scotland (and much of Scandinavia).
Everyone can enjoy Scotland's outdoor access rights. In summary, some of the main features of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 are:

• Everyone has the statutory right of access
• Access rights apply to all land and inland waters, unless excluded (as below)
• Access rights are for outdoor recreation, for crossing land and water, and for some educational and commercial purposes
• Exercising access rights, and managing access land, must be done responsibly.

Yet you still get people putting up 'No Trespassing' signs in places where none of the exclusions (buildings, farmyards, schools, planted crops, etc.) apply.
posted by titus-g at 10:11 AM on June 24, 2013


This law is one of the things that makes me so proud to be Californian. Then again, I grew up a poor beach-rat in Orange County and spent many of the happiest days of my life on our public beaches. And I remember being shocked at the poor access and crappy amenities of the Northeast when I move out there.
posted by dame at 10:16 AM on June 24, 2013


I don't know that whatever government entity is actually required to build anything to establish the easements. At least for the 25' beach easement, it's just an open space access easement, so there's really nothing to build there. If there's a physical access easement, it might just be a restriction against the property owner building anything there - if they do build something there, it will likely be unpermitted construction and will be in violation anyway. In addition to any physical access easements, there's also typically a view easement for houses between the first roadway and the beach, where nothing taller than 3' or so is permitted in their side yards to allow public views toward the beach - this would prevent both structures and landscaping over that height.

I don't know if Malibu's code enforcement division is lax, or ignoring these things on purpose, but structures or other impediments to these easements are code violations and should be able to be rectified by making phone calls to either the city code enforcement division or the Coastal Commission. Hopefully, the people fighting for access are doing this already.
posted by LionIndex at 10:17 AM on June 24, 2013


Yeah, sorry, I was being a little too vague in musing about building/not building, and probably didn't clarify well. I'm talking about generic hornbook law here (not any specific California statute or case) but you don't have to build to preserve an easement, and fail to build doesn't automatically trigger any of the modes of termination -- but it could/would provide facts to support an attempt to terminate (more relevantly for prescription, rather than abandonment; abandonment requiring you to have made use of or improved it first).

As in, look, I've been blocking this access path space thing for years, no one knows its here because Malibu doesn't care enough to even erect a sign, the ground is overgrown/not leveled/impassable to pedestrians and not improved, and so no one uses it.

Which is of course the kind of thing that the Rangers collaborate to prevent, for which we should all be grateful.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:23 AM on June 24, 2013


Wendy Lender, who will likely have a shorter version of her letter published in Thursday's paper, says not all beaches are appropriate for public use:

"Allow me to present the other side of this issue.

"My parents have had a home on the beach in Malibu since the 1950s."


Allow me to present the other side of this issue.

My family has been rich for a very long time and you don't understand what it's like to have such a limited world view.
posted by four panels at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, I was working for a firm doing a beachfront project in La Jolla and the neighbor was giving us all kinds of trouble (appealed our coastal approval all the way up to city council), so we went and documented all the unpermitted construction he'd done, including blocking the view easement. The city was very interested in knowing that stuff. They make money off it for fines and stuff, so it's odd that Malibu lets this happen.
posted by LionIndex at 10:45 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Washington state allows people to DRIVE THEIR CARS AND TRUCKS on the damn beach, any beach, even public beaches. It is not unusual to see people dig a hole in the sand and change their oil into it; the beaches are littered with empty plastic oil cans (along with every other kind of plastic garbage imaginable).

Uh, yeah. I was born in and have lived in Washington my entire life, and I've literally never seen this happen, anywhere from Shelton to Shoreline. You may have seen a jackass do this once, but it isn't a *thing.*
posted by stenseng at 10:53 AM on June 24, 2013


Have you been to the beach? Cuz yeah, dickheads flock to it. I wonder what might happen if you then move right on top of the beach...
posted by Brocktoon at 11:43 AM on June 24, 2013


I don't think it's been linked here yet, but the California Coastal Commission actually has a surprisingly good PDF with helicopter and satellite photos of Broad Beach detailing the exact access points.

So at least in some cases, this information is already available and could probably be added to OpenStreetMap in maybe 15 minutes (by someone who knows OSM better than I do) via Hacker News
posted by adrianhon at 11:56 AM on June 24, 2013


They make money off it for fines and stuff, so it's odd that Malibu lets this happen.

Malibu's entire constituency is probably aligned in favor of restricted access, at least its monied and influential constituency. Less access protects property values, even for inland residents. Everyone else lives outside of Malibu.

Look at how the official website discusses the beaches -- it makes a spare mention of "public accessways to many of the private beaches" (no map or link) and then lists the developed public beaches.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2013


Yeah, I was wondering in an earlier comment where the City of Malibu's interests lie in the matter.
posted by LionIndex at 12:15 PM on June 24, 2013


And now, kids, we see the true meaning of the word "socialism" as spoken by the rich: we don't want to share with the other children.

@George_Spiggott: Your gift for trenchant sarcasm is remarkable.
posted by Twang at 2:20 PM on June 24, 2013


Depending on the size of the increased beach crowds, you might have to pay for installing and maintaining toilets and trash cans, cleaning the sand, and adding new police patrols, life guards, environmental inspections, parking, and bus stops.

Like... making jobs, you mean?
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


non-resident vs resident beach park access fees

To be fair, I lived there during at least one of these tussles. The Evanston beaches are very popular, but they also cost a lot of taxpayer money to maintain (the parks included) and I think tokens are a reasonable way to defray those costs as well as contain some of the traffic. There are people who come to Evanston because the Chicago beaches are perceived as less safe (ethnic concentrations, etc., as well as things like trash and improvements) and from surrounding suburbs where most of the lakefront remains private property (and thus not accessible at all) or from suburbs that, you know, don't have a lake. I'm not sure how to manage that without some sort of fee structure, as Evanston shouldn't be the only one to bear the burden of maintaining nice beaches, especially when they're nice enough to attract so much attention.

A fee is not the same as barring public access by any means. For the record, Evanston is hardly a lily-white, monied suburb (although the lakefront homes are pretty tony), and takes pride in its inclusiveness. In an argument like this you'll have Evanstonians arguing against the fees as stridently as non-residents themselves.
posted by dhartung at 6:27 PM on June 24, 2013


Like... making jobs, you mean?

Well, it never even gets to that point. The biggest reason these beaches are hidden is that they are effectively remote due to lack of parking and car/bus access. There simply isn't going to be any solution to that because property there is extremely desirable and extremely expensive, the road going there is expanded to the maximum and already overloaded on peak days. Those hidden access points don't even have practical walkability access. It's not a matter of sidewalks, because who the fuck is going to walk ten miles to that awesome hidden beach even if there were sidewalks? These places are already accessible enough to be fairly popular destinations on peak days, despite the efforts of some of the locals and lack of amenities. If you were to somehow add all the amenities to these formerly hidden beaches, parking and such, it really doesn't add much to quality or even overall accessibility, while spending insane amounts of money just to make them parkable.

It's cool to have an app that shows all the access points to those hidden beaches. But the idea that they can be turned into Zuma or Will Rodgers and create jobs, win-win, is ridiculous.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:45 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


...but the folks doing this weren't that rich...

In Malibu, they are rich.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:28 PM on June 24, 2013


The biggest reason these beaches are hidden is that they are effectively remote due to lack of parking and car/bus access.

This is true. I've lived in west LA near the beach for over 10 years and most of these private beaches are hemmed in by expensive beachfront houses with no parking available except for resident parking along a fast moving highway.

Parking in Malibu is very hard to come by, mainly because of its geography.

That being said...many of those illegal signs have fooled me in the past. There are some Very Scary Signs with big NO TRESPASSING letters on what I now know are totally public beaches. In fact, one beach which I regularly used to avoid during regular bike rides up to Malibu I now walk on even though it is a "Private Beach" for a "Private Club."
posted by jnnla at 1:00 PM on June 25, 2013


The Finger Lakes are like this too. That part of New York is lousy with lakes, you can't go anywhere without having to go around one, but absent a few public access points (often with town/village fees and tons of rules, closed after sunset), it's all owned by someone else. Lots of picturesque farmland on the rolling hills down to the shore, dumping fertilizer and pesticides into the water, resulting in algae blooms that make it unsafe to swim in. I'd prefer litter left behind by tourists.
posted by headnsouth at 2:08 PM on June 25, 2013


« Older In which Hart, a vlogger, responds to a question s...  |  John Bisset & Ivor Kallin cele... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments