Happy International Surfing Day Again! Appeals Court Affirms Public Access to Strands Beach

Since they put houses up and down from the Dana Point Headlands, the city, developers and owners of those "exclusive" pads have done all they can to keep the unwashed public (i.e., you and me) off public Strands beach. Hours have been restricted, access gates have been locked and tales of vandalism, "sex parties" and homeless dudes peeing have been dutifully reported by lackey cops. Well, Strands Malibutization (i.e., making a public beach private) has been shot down yet again.

A state appellate court ruled today the Coastal Commission has the authority for oversight of beach access at Strands Beach, which effectively wipes out an anti-nuisance "urgency ordinance" the City of Dana Point shat out in March 2010 to legitimize the locking of gates and restricting of hours at Strands.

It's actually a case of the hits keep coming against Dana Point, which had a trial court rule against its limits to public beach access as well. McDermott Will & Emery LLP, on behalf of the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, had filed suit against the city in June 2010.

"This opinion is even better for Surfrider Foundation than the trial court's ruling because it sets a statewide precedent confirming the strength of the Coastal Commission and the Coastal Act to protect our beach access rights," says Surfrider Foundation Legal Director Angela Howe in an email. "Not only will access at Dana Point Strands Beach be protected through this ruling, but other municipalities and developers will be stopped from abusing nuisance abatement authority to the detriment of public access."

Hear that, Malibu? Actually, for our sake, you're hoping it's being heard at the Headlands. Have you ever visited The Strand at the Headlands' website? Pity the millionaires who thought they bought into a private beach when they read real estate speak like "Here you will experience beachfront living the way it was meant to be, with the Pacific Ocean as your backyard, miles of secluded white sand beaches, and countless opportunities for recreation and leisure."

OK, I really don't pity them.

Instead of weighing the merits of the trial court decision, the appellate justices are really leaving it up to the Coastal Commission to enforce the maximum access provisions of the Coastal Act, under the notion that will solve the Strands' access issue.

"Although this may seem a small victory, it's really huge because it supports the big picture of coastal access and upholds the Coastal Act in California, which guarantees public access to beaches," Rick Erkeneff, chairman of Surfrider's South Orange County Chapter, says in a statement. "Many states in the U.S. have beach access issues that restrict public use, and this further demonstrates that California is the shining example of coastal protections for all."

By the way, this victory comes on International Surfing Day, which has now been mentioned in two Surfrider-related posts today.

Happy International Surfing Day! Water Pollution Regulators Reject Toll-Road Extension

As I'm running out of places to mention this (don't ask), let's conclude by noting the ninth annual celebration has surfers from Trestles to Taiwan taking to the waves in a show of solidarity and worldwide awareness about coastal environments.

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Mitchell_Young topcommenter

You know, there was actually a trailer park at what is now 'Strands' -- it was harder to get to the beach. I'm not a big fan of those millionaires and their fake Tuscan villas (although you guys should be, they employ tons of Mexicans building them, cleaning them, and landscaping them), but let's get real, the beach has more visitors now than before the development was built.

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