A new Malibu stairway is opening up public access to the beach
In the latest chapter of a decades-long struggle to make the beaches lining California’s affluent communities more accessible to the public, the California Coastal Commission has opened a new stairway along a stretch of Malibu.
The state announced the new steps near Malibu Colony Beach, which allow people to descend a 30-foot bluff into the sands below, on Tuesday.
The opening marks a small victory in the battle to make beaches more accessible to the public that owns them. Homeowners who live by access points have used creative tactics to discourage the public from getting to the beach in the past.
“They post fake ‘no parking’ signs. They paint the curb red illegally in front of their house. They put cones out in front of their house,” said Linda Locklin, coast access program manager for the coastal commission. “We have a continual issue where people put signs on the ocean-side of their home that say ‘private beach,’ which is completely not true.”
Although the public has the right to access the sand between the average high-tide line and the water along California’s coast, getting there from the road can be difficult. The California Coastal Commission often negotiates access through private beachfront property when owners apply for permits to build or renovate.
Last year, the commission announced the opening of a new trail at Carbon Beach after a pitched battle with a property owner who fought hard to keep people off the strip in front of her home on a coveted stretch of coast. That fight dated to the 1980s.
The move to open this particular access point also began in the 1980s as part of a coastal commission permit approval that included requiring the dedication of 100 feet of the parcel to public access, Locklin said.
“When looking at building on the shoreline, the coastal commission looks at if there’s impact to public access,” she said. “In this case, the mitigation was to provide a parcel where a third party could build access.”
But the process was slowed by two lawsuits. Before the stairs opened, surfers accessed the break by traversing and descending from large boulders.
“It’s par for the course when we’re trying to open an access way that there’s going to be litigation,” Locklin said.
The 100-foot stretch of beach that can be accessed by the steps is not ideal for swimming because of reefs located off shore. However, it will allow people to walk along the beach and more easily approach surfing areas.
There are three parking spots by the stairway, as well as street parking nearby. No barbecuing is allowed on the beach.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.