Coastal Commission will consider relaxing L.A.'s 30-year-old beach curfew

Los Angeles is heading toward another collision over its 30-year-old beach curfew that could decide who rules the city’s segments of the coastline after dark.

In a court settlement, the city agreed to go before the California Coastal Commission to defend its midnight-to-5 a.m. closure of 11 miles of shoreline within its limits from Pacific Palisades to San Pedro, attorneys said Friday.

L.A. adopted its curfew in 1988 to deter late-night crime, without seeking commission approval. Closures spread through Southern California as gang violence swirled in the early 1990s.

Other jurisdictions relaxed their bans or sought the state agency’s blessing. L.A. stood firm against sporadic challenges from the commission, which in 2014 asked the city to show “credible evidence” of a current safety threat to continue barring the public overnight from beaches, piers and oceanfront parks.

The request came in the midst of a curfew-enforcement push in Venice as rising homelessness and inroads by the tech industry into the beach enclave’s famously bohemian culture ratcheted up tensions.

Venice activists filed suit in 2015 challenging the city’s defiance of the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction and seeking to suspend curfew enforcement. Los Angeles Superior Court and then an appellate panel rejected the city’s position that the state agency had no jurisdiction.

Under the settlement filed in court Thursday, the city agreed to seek a permit — first from the city engineer and then from the Coastal Commission — and to have police issue warnings before citing curfew violators, many of whom are homeless people trying to sleep on the beach.

The Los Angeles city attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Coastal Commission staff members in the past have indicated they were open to a compromise that would relax the total ban without threatening public safety.

“We start from the position of maximum public access to the coastline,” Coastal Commission enforcement supervisor Andrew Willis said Friday.

Shayla Myers, a Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles attorney who was on the activists’ legal team, said she was pleased the community would now have a chance to speak on the curfew.

“What we wanted was the public process and public vetting … and a specific showing before limiting public access,” Myers said Friday.

The first hearing in the process is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Westchester Senior Center near Venice, lawyers said.

gholland@latimes.com

Twitter: @geholland

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