During the past month there has been a media blitz by the Coastal Commission to drum up support for its plans to open beach access easements here in Malibu. I was interviewed, I guess, as a representative of the opposition. However, and unfortunately, the media, the L. A. Times, Aaron Brown of CNN and the others who replayed the CNN interview after it aired participated in a major thrust by the Chair of the Commission to simply mislead. They eliminated all of my interview, which gave the reasons why the easements should not be opened. They refused to air information, which would point out that; the Commission is doing nothing more than lying. The L A Times took it a step farther when, in an editorial, it asserted that those who didn’t like people peeking in the windows of their beach front homes should move.
Fair journalism mandates a publication of opposing views but that does not appear to be the mainstream press’s approach. Beach homeowners have rights the Commission wants to run over: the rest of us as taxpayers ought to be concerned about the tyranny it wants to perpetrate at our expense. If anyone wonders who pays the Commission’s legal bills for its aggressive litigation posture, look in the mirror. If the Chair of the Commission gets her way, there will be a significant increase in litigation – she guaranteed the public in her CNN interview that the beach easements would be opened and told us that the Commission hadn’t lost any suits yet. She knows that is not true but we as taxpayers will, I guess, pay to keep her self-perceived string of victories intact.
Chair Wan starts from the proposition that the “beach belongs to the people of California.” Chair Wan is wrong; she knows she’s wrong and she is not going to let the truth get in her way. In at least two states – Oregon and Hawaii- nobody owns the beach; it belongs to the people. Hawaii limits seaward private ownership at the edge of the vegetation line. Oregon extends public ownership to the end of the wave up-rush line. The law of California is different; private ownership extends seaward to the Mean High Tide Line (MHTL). Chair Wan has to know that means some of the sand is privately owned. But the MTL is not the high tide line as it exists today. Note how far forward the fences indicating private ownership extend just up coast of the Santa Monica Pier. They are several hundred yards from where the high tide line is today; a bike path and a large expanse of public beach extend seaward. Conversely, on Old Malibu Road some of the houses extend over the sand and seaward to a point where the water actually washes under them on an almost daily basis. The answer is that the California courts and legislature have determined that the MHTL is based on a survey before the beach has been impacted by the acts of man.
Chair Wan knows this because of the Commission’s interaction with the State Lands Commission as described in the La Chuza Villas West vs. Coastal Commission decision. She should also knows that State Lands, in litigation against homeowners for coastal encroachment, has taken the position that the 1926 highway survey is the bench mark by which the MHTL is determined. Since that time, the surf line has changed dramatically; it has moved seaward above the Santa Monica Pier where the sand drifting eastward has built up. Since the waves strike the Malibu coast at approximately a 45-degree angle, they drive the sand down the coast until it goes down the submarine canyons at Pt. Mugu, Pt. Dume and Redondo Beach. As a result, for the surf line to stay where it was based on the ’96 survey, there has to be a continual supply of sand from inland to replenish the beaches. Every flood control catch basin and every cemented channel traps the sand or prevents erosion. Each truckload of debris out o# a catch basin that is not dumped into the ocean reduces the sand that reaches the beach. The result is that in many of the areas Chair Wan is so anxious to open the MHTL is seaward of the current surf line. The easement nets the public a strip of beach no wider than the easement itself. The folks peeking in Mr. Geffen’s front windows were trespassing just as much as if they were up on Carbon Mesa peeking in Chair Wan’s windows. If the beach front owners don’t exercise their rights and prevent the trespass, they will, at some time, have permitted a prescriptive easement, which they can’t do if they want to maintain their privacy.
I understand that the Commission has obtained some lateral easements across the front of some beach front homes – but not all – and those easements are, at least as far as I have seen, below the current surf line. The Commission (read that its Chair and sycophants) wants to open the beach from, as near as I can tell, Las Tunas to Carbon, which means that a goodly portion of the way will simply be blocked by the homes that extend over the surf line. As to the remainder, the MHTC is in many places below the surf line. If the Commission has MHIL surveys, they ought to disclose them before they spend our money (with a $12 billion deficit) to get into some litigation for an exercise of marginal utility to everyone except the megalomaniacs on the Commission.
Of course we know that there are the safety issues. The Commission doesn’t seem to think it necessary to consider what the lifeguards or the sheriffs think about that. But when someone gets hurt, or even worse, killed, who has the liability? Is the Coastal Conservancy prepared to step up to the plate and dea1 with that issue?
Oh, I know, I know, Chair Wan, the beach is a precious resource and there’s just not enough for everybody. Ever been to Zuma 13 on the Fourth of July? Too crowded? Hardly! In fact, 1 haven’t seen you out there recently. There are over 50 mi1es of beach in Los Angeles County which are public from vegetation line to the surf and on to Tahiti, if you want to swim that far. This isn’t about beach access any more than the LCP is about bettering anyone’s quality of life. Let’s call it what it is – a noxious power grab. Maybe, as time goes on, in the courts we’ll find out why. After all, that’s the only place, other than withholding political contributions, where we have any hope of reining in this unconstitutional bully that’s been running amuck for far too long.
Todd M. Sloan