Letter: Keep Beaches Public

Letter to the Editor

The beaches in LA county are magnificent. In a perfect world, everybody in the county would have a chance to come park along the side of the road and go for a walk along the sandy shores where the Chumash once roamed. 

But you have to get started early, as the parking fills up quickly. 

As Memorial Day approaches, it’s time to reflect on how we behave along the beach with our fellow community members and visitors.  

Though living along the coast is an immeasurable gift, it does not entitle those people who are lucky enough to live there to special beach privileges. 

The beaches in California are public and if you happen to live on the right-of-way, everything below the mean high tide line on the beach is public. Ask Steve Lopez of the LA Times!

But the tides change daily and nobody, frankly, knows exactly where the mean high tide line is, so over the last 35 years that I’ve been visiting Malibu (disclosure: a member of my family is a longtime resident) we just wing it.  

Poor beach etiquette is a bit like obscenity: You’ll know it when you see it. 

So, obviously, hanging out under a person’s house cannot be construed as appropriate and in my experience that almost never happens. 

What about in front of a person’s house?  

Well, visitors and the residents have to be respectful of one another.

What is not OK and emerged as a thing during the pandemic is certain occupants of beachfront units have started putting orange road cones out on the beach to send a strong signal to Angelenos who might like to dip their toes to basically keep moving. 

The cones are inappropriate. 

If one wants to sit or stand on the beach or place a towel or a chair, that might do the trick and is a defensible course of action. Cones don’t fit on the majestic shores vibe, and given the glut of vaccination cones on the market, we need to be sure the inclination to cone people out of Malibu is curbed. 

Imagine if someone tried to put cones out on a crowded public roadway with plenty of people looking for a spot. It’s been happening on Old Malibu road and cannot be tolerated.

Many buildings contain several apartments so there are more cars than driveway spaces, but in most cases streets are publicly owned, meaning anyone is allowed to park in those spots even if it happens to be in front your of house, it doesn’t make it your spot.

Since not everyone agrees about that, I flagged down an LA County Sheriff Deputy and politely suggested maybe take a short break from the revenue generating tickets and “Do something!”

The Deputy acknowledged the problem and suggested that I contact the City of Malibu.

The Cone of Shame:

One clever idea to get neighbors to behave more neighborly was touted a few years ago in the New York Times.

The scene was in Brunete Spain, where there had been a battle to get dog owners to clean up after their pets, so this could apply to Malibu road as well.

The city hall engaged a small army of volunteers to bag it, tag it, box it and send it back to its owners. The mayor of the town said “It’s your dog, it’s your dog poop, We are just returning it to you.” People started complying.

Taking a page from the Spaniards, if the ticket writers who work in Malibu road happen to see an orange cone holding a parking space in reserve please consider engaging in some civic shaming by jotting a short note explaining that the public roadway cannot be privatized. To get the message delivered just stick it in the cone!

Eric Preven