Coastal vote to ban ATVs at Broad Beach called ‘waste of taxpayer’s money’

Marshall Grossman

The California Coastal Commission has voted to ban security patrols from riding all-terrain vehicles along Broad Beach. Homeowners can also no longer post ‘No Trespassing’ signs on the wet sand in the area. Marshall Grossman, of the Trancas Property Owners Association, calls the move “a waste of taxpayers’ money” and a “media-driven” event led by commissioner Sara Wan.

By Stephen Dorman / Special to The Malibu Times

The California Costal Commission’s unanimous vote to ban the use of all-terrain vehicles for security patrols along the 1.1-mile stretch of Broad Beach, effective immediately, and the posting of “No Trespassing, Private Property” signs along the wet sand in the area without a state-issued permit has riled the local property association member who calls the decision unnecessary.

Friday’s ruling was just the latest installment in what has been an ongoing battle over the years between the Coastal Commission and the Trancas Property Owners Association over public access issues at Broad Beach. Currently, 52 of the 108 properties along Broad Beach have lateral access easements, which make for a puzzle-like configuration of private and public property lines that are tough to distinguish.

Because of the ruling, private security patrols that attempt to enforce the lines between public and private beach access on Broad Beach will now have to operate on foot. Kenneth Ehrlich, an attorney representing the homeowners, said the use of ATVs was halted by the homeowners more than a year ago.

However, Lisa Haage, the Coastal Commission’s chief of enforcement, recently told the Los Angeles Times that the commission’s latest legal move was necessary because the use of ATVs and the signs has gone on for several years, particularly in the summer.

“[Without the order] there’s nothing to prevent [the homeowners] from bringing in more signs or more guards or more ATVs,” Haage told the Times. “If they really didn’t intend to put up anything again, the order shouldn’t hurt them.”

Haage had previously been engaged in negotiations with the Trancas association regarding the ATV and sign issues as well as discussing how to best deal with the hodge-podge easements, until those talks were halted when the local property association hired bulldozers to scoop public sand to form large berms in front of private homes on the beach. The sand movement caused damage to grunion runs, and left nothing but water for the public visiting the beach.

Haage did not immediately return calls from The Malibu Times seeking comment.

Marshall Grossman, an attorney and member of the Trancas Property Owners Association, said the commission’s latest actions were predictable and will accomplish very little in terms of helping the commission and homeowners association establish a universal easement plan in the future.

“The Coastal Commission and Sara Wan are never going to miss an opportunity to come down on Malibu or anything that involves Malibu,” Grossman said. “This was a waste of taxpayers’ funds because the use of the ATVs was stopped over a year ago and there have been no signs on the sandy beach since December of last year and January of this year.”

Grossman is a former coastal commissioner.

Wan, an acting commissioner who removed herself from Friday’s vote, was involved in a heavily publicized incident on Broad Beach two years ago when she was told to leave the beach by security patrolmen who said she was on private property. Wan produced documentation that said the sand she was on was public and was allowed to continue her beach visit that day. Several attempts to reach Wan for comment were unsuccessful, but she did issue a statement following the commission’s latest actions.

“I think the results are to be expected,” Wan said after the vote. “The law’s very clear about the public right to access beaches. The fact that they’re fighting it tells me that if the commission didn’t [issue the order], you’d see signs up again, maybe not tomorrow, but it might be five years from now.”

Several calls seeking comment from the Coastal Commission’s Deputy Director Jack Ainsworth, District Manager Gary Timm, and Aaron McLendon, the commission’s statewide enforcement analyst, were unreturned.

Grossman said he believes the ruling was a “media-driven event” led by Wan. He went on to criticize the Los Angeles Times, which ran two stories over the weekend in regard to the right of public access at Broad Beach, for its continued focus on the situation.

“The Coastal Commission and its staff leaks information to the media before it even comes to the homeowners on Broad Beach and before it comes to other people in Malibu who are affected by its decision,” Grossman said. “Right now, the issue de jour happens to be Broad Beach; six months ago the issue de jour was David Geffen. There will always be an issue involving Malibu as long as that animus exists.”