City of Malibu removes MRCA Coastal Access signs near Lechuza Beach

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A project funded by State Coastal Conservancy and managed by Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA), the beach access signs allow residents and visitors to visit the beaches near Lechuza Beach. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT

MRCA said according to the city’s adopted LCP, it states that direction signage is exempt from requiring a permit

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) shared a video on social media accusing the City of Malibu of removing and confiscating the Coastal Access signs on Broad Beach Road, a city-owned street near Lechuza Beach. 

In the video, MRCA ranger Edgar Del Campo said the City of Malibu chose to remove and confiscate the signs.

“We just retrieved them from the city and wanted to let you and all Californians know that this beach is here and it is for your enjoyment,” Del Campo said. “This is why the MRCA had these public coastal access signs at three public access ways along this road.”

Lechuza Beach is located at the intersection of West Sea Level Drive and Broad Beach Road (continue south on West Sea Level Drive once through the pedestrian gate).

The City of Malibu provided a statement on July 10 which said, on June 26, the city removed beach access signs that were installed at three locations along Broad Beach Road. 

“The City continually supports public access to beaches in Malibu, which is protected under state law for the entire coast of California,” the statement says. “Beach access signs are important to visitors, public safety agencies, and nearby homeowners to ensure that beachgoers stay on safe, maintained beach access paths.”

The statement says the street where the signs were placed were city-owned and required an “encroachment permit,” which is needed for use of public right away. According to the city’s website (malibucity.org), the permit expires six months after date of issuance and must be posted at the job site at all times. 

MRCA said the signs were “only up for 18 days before the city removed them”; however, the City of Malibu said MRCA installed the signs on August 2022, without city permits.

MRCA Coastal Planner Mario Sandoval said he was notified when the signs were removed and was one of the MRCA representatives who retrieved the signs. 

Sandoval said the MRCA did not request a permit; however, he said the city’s adopted Local Coastal Program (LCP) states that direction signage is exempt from requiring a permit. 

LCP Park Land Map 2
The map shows the Local Coastal Program Park Lands Map for Lechuza Beach is under the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority. Contributed Graphic

Malibu’s LCP was certified in 2002 and grants the city authority to review and approve coastal development permits (CDPs) at the local level. 

The entire City of Malibu is located within the California coastal zone, which means that all development and activity occurring within city limits (unless considered exempt) is subject to the regulations of the city’s LCP. LCPs contain the ground rules for protecting sensitive coastal resources and public access along the entire coastline of California. 

The city’s statement says they offered to help MRCA staff with assistance to apply for a permit but said MRCA did not request a permit. 

In Monday night’s City Council meeting, City Manager Steve McClary responded to the video presented by MRCA during public comment. 

“We’re certainly more than willing to work with MRCA; they just need to work with us to get a permit,” McClary said. “We’ll be happy to work with them on getting those signs back at appropriate locations and appropriate and safe manner.

“MRCA responded by email on June 21 that they would remove the signs the next day. The signs were not removed. The city notified MRCA and removed the signs on June 26. MRCA picked up the signs from the city on July 7.”

Sandoval said they asked the city for an extension, but the city did not give them an extension but will provide a permit to put the signs up.

In the statement, the city said the signs did not have signposts designed to break away for safety when struck by a vehicle, which is required under California and federal law.

“They had solid 6-inch steel posts,” the city said in a statement. “The signs were removed because they were not permitted and did not conform to safety standards.” 

Sandoval said the signs comply with Coastal Commission standards despite the city saying they were not in compliance.

There are three public access points to the beach: (1) At the intersection of Bunnie Lane and Broad Beach Road; (2) Off of the intersection of West Sea Level Drive and Broad Beach Road (continue south on West Sea Level Drive once through the pedestrian gate), approximately 0.20 mile west of Bunnie Lane, a short walk through the neighborhood leads to a beach staircase at the end of West Sea Level Drive; (3) at the intersection of East Sea Level Drive and Broad Beach Road approximately 0.20 mile east of Bunnie Lane, a short walk through the neighborhood leads to the beach at the end of East Sea Level Drive. The public has the right to use the pedestrian gates at West Sea Level Drive and East Sea Level Drive to walk down to the beach. Public vehicular access on West or East Sea Level Drive is not available at this time.

The State Coastal Conservancy granted the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority funds to acquire this beach property in Malibu, near El Matador State Beach. The beach includes exquisite rock formations, kelp forests, and scenic views.

MRCA says to contact the City Manager Steve McClary at smcclary@malibucity.org for any concerns on the signage removal.

“If you feel that public access to Malibu beaches should not be kept ‘secret,’ please use your voice and contact the Malibu City Manager,” the agency said. 

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Lechuza Beach Public Access Improvement Project on Aug. 7. 

The proposed developments include Americans with Disability Act-compliant parking and restrooms, viewing platforms, an advanced onsite wastewater treatment system, and a staircase. For more information about the project, visit the California Environmental Quality Act website at ceqanet.opr.ca.gov/2019011015/3. The agenda, staff report and viewing and commenting instructions will be posted in advance on the city webpage.