Where's the Beach? Orange County's War Over Public Sand

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Cameron K. Lewis/OC Weekly

It's 7:02 on a recent summer evening, and the main gate at Strands Beach, located next to a parking lot on Selva Road on the north side of Dana Point Harbor, slams shut. The gate, which opens to the Strand at Headlands development, locks at this time every evening from May through September; from October to April, the gate shuts promptly at 5 p.m. Factoring in seasonal changes in daylight as well as daylight saving time, this means that no matter what time of year it is, the sun is still shining when the gate closes and blocks off the beach to all but the wealthy homeowners who live there. (Though there is public access less than 200 yards north of this gate.)

According to California's state constitution, the gate shouldn't even be there: All the sand below the high-tide line is public property, and access should be guaranteed to anyone. But over the past few decades, throughout the state--especially in places such as Malibu and South Orange County--you'd be forgiven for thinking the beach is for millionaires only: Well-heeled homeowners use everything from bogus no-parking or no-trespassing signs to private security firms to keep the public away.

But now the people are finally rising up to reclaim the sand. Or at least the California Coastal Commission (CCC) is; it exists, in part, to litigate against cities, property developers and homeowners who block the beach. According to CCC enforcement officer Andrew Willis, there are currently "60 to 70 open-access violations in Orange County."

Not surprisingly, of these violations, more than half are in South County. Besides the gate at Strands, Capistrano Beach, located on the south side of Dana Point Harbor, is home to front yards that extend beyond the high-tide line, making it impossible for the public to walk along the beach if the tide is too high. Even when the tide is low, residents of each block do everything they can to deter people from walking near their front yards. They've also been accused of using security guards to keep people away.

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Eve Steccati/OC Weekly

Via Buena Vista, on the cliffs above San Clemente Beach, is adorned with no-parking signs in an attempt to discourage non-locals. Parking is a chore even for residents; for beachgoers, there's one tiny public lot and the possibility their vehicles will be towed if they are too close to a driveway.

On July 1, the CCC announced it planned to directly ticket Coastal Act violators. As of now, anyone privatizing the beach is subject to a fine at the CCC's discretion, whereas previously homeowners were able to argue their case in court. The tickets can cost violators as much as $11,250 per day. There's little reason to suspect citations will be handed out willy-nilly; the CCC is sending homeowners warning letters, giving them 30 days to comply with the law and avoid the fine.

Surfrider Foundation, a nationwide environmental organization, has led the fight for beach access in Orange County, especially near Dana Point's Headlands, where private developers controversially began building homes more than a decade ago. The group calls its anti-gate litigation efforts the "summer bummer." "We've been battling gates since . . . 2002," legal director Angela Howe says. "The gates were never permitted in the local coastal program amendment; they were never anticipated by Coastal Commission."

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65 comments
Mark Schlager
Mark Schlager

Keep out the illegals and non-white criminals!

mehmeh
mehmeh

strands used to be the best kept secret in orange county. yea you had to walk a mile or so down the stairs and to the left to get to the beach (or take your chanced on the cliffs!) but when you got there it was BEAUTIFUL and almost always near empty. NO tourists, locals didn't bother the casuals much (at least during the day. night was a different story...).

so then some developer decided to turn the old burnt out mobile home park into mcmansions. inevitable in money grubbing OC i suppose, but for them to have the fucking audacity to try to block beach access to people who've been going to this beach before the rich entitled assholes now living there even knew it existed, it makes my blood boil. yea, there is another path but it's at least twice as long with all the switchbacks in the trail. WE DON'T WANT TO FUCK WITH YOUR SHITTY MCMANSIONS! WE JUST WANT QUICK AND EASY ACCESS TO THE BEACH YOU STOLE FROM US! quit being paranoid assholes and leave the fucking gate open another hour or two.

they took what was probably the most picturesque beach in socal and turned it into the coastline equivalent of a strip mall which they want to claim as theirs. it's bullshit and people should be mad as hell.

Rocky Neidhardt
Rocky Neidhardt

Huntington sucks worse than all of South OC combined! Piss off

John M. Trenfield
John M. Trenfield

Surf rats and groms... paddle out and around to 'their beach', and surf all day, all the while giving them the finger, come get me... what are they going to do? Call the surf police? Love watching their heads turn purple.

Ken Boddy
Ken Boddy

I went to the 'new Dana Strands' a few months back. One has to walk down this street amongst those new scrillion dollar mansions. There was a walkway with signs imploring (warning?) people to stay on the sidewalk. I stepped on the street (as is usually my lot in life) and was immediately barked at by some uniformed lackey. I imagined some Ferguson style patrol to come responding immediately.

Renee Carrillo
Renee Carrillo

We could be solving some REAL problems right now.. But no we are worried about sand. #richwhitepeopleproblems

wayneinhb
wayneinhb

I will never be rich and have a home on the beach. However, with all the pigs that use the beach and parks, I don't blame the homeowners for trying to keep them out---I would do the same. Too bad so many have to screw things up for the rest of us who use common sense and decency and don't trash the place. It's what I call the "meattitudes"---absolutely no regard for others.

Christy Adam Moskovitz
Christy Adam Moskovitz

It's not just south OC. Malibu residents have been trying to keep the riffraff off "their beach" for a long time. Hawaii has the same issues. I'm sure anywhere where the elite are forced to tolerate the commoners this is going to be an issue.

Martin Gilbert
Martin Gilbert

Not really, juz a cover for rascim, I go to Corona Del Mar, and see the stares and hear comments,most Anglo Saxon types, ridiculous and their Fakeass plastic and attitudes, all THE money and theY still don't look as good naturally as us mortaLs, ha, ha####

Wendy De La Puente
Wendy De La Puente

However, everyone has a right to the beach. So just hang out out at the actual beach & have fun.

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

All those who vote Dem you want government control


you vote for it


your protest for it


you rob for it



HERE YOU GO


MO GOV


MO PROBLEMS

Brianne Dyer
Brianne Dyer

Please!!! Protecting the beach from all of the disgusting trash left behind from out-of-towners is more like it. How many times have you walked your local beach and just picked up endless amounts of trash from the busy weekend before? If more people cared about the beaches that they visited for the afternoon there would be no issue.

Beth Finley
Beth Finley

The high tide line comes right up to a lot of the homes in Capo Beach and San Clemente. The beach is open for everyone to use below the high tide line. Meaning, the entire beach is free to use any time (at least 12 hours a day) anyone wants to. Just don't sit above the high tide line. I don't see the problem

mhip
mhip

I'm totally going to go for an Adverse Possession on one of those homes...

Party at my place.

Franklin Gondek
Franklin Gondek

Yeah just go up there with your boltcutters like we did in Malibu.

rexmiller2012
rexmiller2012

Typical OC Weekly hypocrisy BS. If you really want to talk about the war on public access to beaches in CA, you should have also written about the Marine Life Protection Act. Further, there's no question that the shoreline is public, the issue is that unsavoury characters like Hutch want 24 hour public access across their private property just to piss off rich people. Coast Commission has put an enormous burden on the developer to provide public access (including installation of a funicular). It is not unreasonable to allow those property owners privacy and security at times when the beach is closed to the public.

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

Wow, we could only imagine the inanities you'd say if we'd put Mexicans...

Joshua Ryan
Joshua Ryan

They'll probably get there privacy too. With money comes power. Check the city officials bank accounts when it does happen.

Gabe Gomez
Gabe Gomez

Carver and Steve, I think you'll enjoy reading this!

Claire Morgan
Claire Morgan

You chose to live there in a property that abuts public space. I assume You understood that before buying. It's like trying to keep people out of a park next door to your house.

Neil Manglani
Neil Manglani

lol trying to be politically correct by putting a white family in the picture?

Kryssa McKenzie- Hastings
Kryssa McKenzie- Hastings

Well I live in said areas, and if you pay to live there, property taxes included which are astronomical, you would probably want a little privacy and be able to enjoy your beachfront property. People are always so quick to criticize what they don't understand.

Apsara
Apsara

It's a "white people" thing. My Samoan friends tell me that they do this in Samoa, put up a house and try to OWN the beach in front of it and keep the locals out.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

That's a tough sell in Hawaii.  All of the beaches are public there and the resorts are required to provide parking and public access.  Good times.


RocketJ
RocketJ

@rexmiller2012 First OC Weekly has.  http://www.ocweekly.com/2012-06-21/news/fishing-conservation-ivar-southern-marcos-voyatzil-rodger-healy-michael-thompson-paul-romanowski-mark-wisch-ray-hiemstra-don-brockman-josh-fisher/

Second this is not about Hutch but the public being allowed to access public property.


Third the Coastal Commission has questioned beach curfews up and down state, may strike down some day, one related story (not weekly) http://www.coronadelmartoday.com/40632/home/citys-beach-curfew-concerns-coastal-commission-staff/

tonyturbos
tonyturbos

@rexmiller2012 Those areas you speak of are rarely used. The home owners only use them 1 or 2 weeks a year. Vacation or investment properties, to help their portfolios grow. I was a sub contractor for years in almost every coastal developments in the O.C. From Long Bch to Stands. I saw this coming years ago. How sad to think that these poor rich people have to share the world with the rest of us. Maybe they can buy MARS and get the F*@K off this silly rock.


RocketJ
RocketJ

What you pay, property tax included is for your property and does not give you the right to prevent the public from accessing public property. 

cnelsen2
cnelsen2

Kryssa - the developer agreed to provide this access in trade for the development when it was approved in 2004. He backed out of his commitment to the public, plain and simple, and anyone who bought property there should be well aware of that. 

rexmiller2012
rexmiller2012

@tonyturbos @rexmiller2012 hey asshat, if you were a sub on these jobs, you not only literally constructed the issue you're worked up about, you profited from it. You are a horrible human being.

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