Councilmember wants first city beach

Above is a rendering commissioned by Los Angeles County of a parking area a half-mile west of Corral Canyon Road. The drawing includes 14 parking spaces, picnic tables, benches and landscaping, but it is unclear when, or if, the county will have the funding to do the work.

A one-mile stretch of beach has been fenced off from Pacific Coast Highway for decades. One city councilmember wants the County of Los Angeles to either improve public access or transfer control over the beach to the city, but county officials say a transfer of control isn’t in the cards.

By Paul Sisolak / Special to The Malibu Times

For several decades, a mile-long stretch of coastline running from Latigo Shore Drive east to Corral Canyon Road along Pacific Coast Highway has been separated from the highway by thick metal fencing. The beach is open to the public, but with no access roads or parking spaces, beachgoers must either pick their way through broken parts of the fence or walk over a double gate that has been crushed flat.

Los Angeles County owns the beach, but has not invested in public access enhancements.

Malibu City Councilmember Jefferson Wagner says he has been pushing the county for years to either provide adequate parking and public access for the area or transfer control of the beach to the city.

“If the county can’t find this financing to open the beach, I was hoping that the city might be able to step up and get the beach open,” Wagner said. “We would have our own City of Malibu beach…Shouldn’t the city have the right to open a public area?”

Despite stretching 27 miles of coastline, the City of Malibu does not control any beaches, which are owned by either the state or the county.

The county has commissioned plans in the past to add public access to the area. The latest rendering, on file at the City of Malibu under “Dan Blocker Beach Access Project,” depicts a parking area a half-mile west of Corral Canyon Road, something similar to Malibu Bluffs Park. The drawing includes 14 parking spaces, picnic tables, benches, landscaping, restrooms and an ADA-compliant ramp.

In late October, Joel Bellman, a spokesman for county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, told The Malibu Times he anticipated the project would be underway soon and completed in mid-2012.

“It’s hoped everything will be cleared for construction sometime next year,” Bellman said. “There are still some things to be worked out. The intention has been there for years.”

But earlier this week, Bellman said that timetable has been pushed back.

“I don’t know if there’ve been any unexpected delays,” said Bellman, who corresponded with the Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors. The search for major funding avenues may take longer than a 2012 open date. It’s unknown at this point how much the access project could cost.

Wagner believes the access improvements could cost upward of $1 million. He speculated that if the county transferred ownership of the beach or leased it to the city, the city could make up those costs by collecting filming fees.

But Bellman says the county has no plans to either rent, sell or otherwise transfer ownership of the beach to the city.

“It’s not in the cards that it’ll be leased to the city for the city’s use,” Bellman said. “The county has plans, and has had plans, for a capital project on that site, which would eventually open that beach to the public. It’s not our intention to operate with the city on it,” he continued.

Bellman says that Yaroslavsky’s office hasn’t received any official correspondence lately from the city on the beach, but Wagner disagrees and says that both he and fellow City Councilmember John Sibert have broached the beach access issue to Yaroslavsky several times. Wagner said he and Sibert had spoken to California Coastal Commissioner Dana Bochco about the lack of access to the beach, and that Bochco took a trip on her own to look at it. The Malibu Times was unable to contact Bochco for this story, but according to Wagner, she was receptive.

“She thought it was a great idea,” Wagner said. “She said that opening any beach to the general public is something she would like to see during her tenure at the Coastal Commission.”

Bellman said he still hopes the county can overcome the funding obstacles in time to open the beach by next year, but Wagner said he’s not holding his breath.

“I don’t see the county coming up with the funding to build a parking lot, infrastructure and stairs,” Wagner said. “I would attend the ribbon cutting, I would kiss babies and shake hands. I’ll bet we won’t see it open in June of 2012.”