If you’re reading this and you’re a private property owner in California who enjoys long walks at sunset, romantic dinners, European travel, and also blocking public beach access, here’s your warning: block the beach and you’re looking at a five-figure fine.
Back on July 1, a new law kicked in that allows the California Coastal Commission to fine violators $11,250 per day for preventing the public from getting down to the beach. These kinds of violations can take all kinds of forms, from property owners posting fake “No Parking” signs in front of beach access points, to locked gates in front of paths leading to the water. Once notified of the violation, property owners have 30 days to remove whatever crafty inventions they’ve erected to keep people out. If they don’t they’re cited.
“The point of the penalties is to create a deterrent,” said Lisa Haage, Chief of Enforcement for the Coastal Commission. “It’s to avoid violations.” So far, it appears to be working as the first offenders contacted by Haage’s office agreed to comply with the Coastal Commission rather than face going to a hearing over the fines. The state has always had the authority to take landowners to court for blocking beach access, but that’s the costly, messy answer. So costly and messy in fact that the Coastal Commission rarely bothered. This new law allowing for huge fines gives the Coastal Commission the teeth to restore public access in areas where it’s been illegally blocked.
The icing on the cake: any fines collected from this law will go to the California Coastal Conservancy, to help fund coastal restoration projects.
In the meantime, here’s a handy tool to navigate the public beach access maze along some of Southern California’s dreamiest and most exclusive beaches.
*Ed note: as of now, this doesn’t seem to apply to Hollister Ranch, which is not blocking an access point traditionally used by the public.