Agreement reached in Malibu beach access dispute

A "no surfboards" warning sign is posted along Paradise Cove Road, which leads to Paradise Cove in Malibu. The cove's owner has agreed to take down such signs.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

In a victory for public beach access, the owner of Paradise Cove in Malibu has agreed to stop charging a $20 walk-in fee, to remove all signs banning surfing and to unlock a gate to the pier, the California Coastal Commission and the State Lands Commission said Thursday.

The resolution resolves a long-running dispute with Kissel Co., which operates as Paradise Cove Land Co. Under the resolution, the company will continue charging a $40 parking fee.

The agreement is effective immediately and the gate is unlocked.

The agencies sent letters dated Oct. 31 to the company, saying it was violating the state Coastal Act and the terms of its state lease for the Paradise Cove pier. They had threatened to impose fines of $11,250 a day.

“This is a triumph for public access and proof that the threat of fines is a very effective enforcement tool,” said Coastal Commission Chairman Steve Kinsey. “We’ve never seen a violation of this magnitude resolved so quickly. Christmas came early for the coast this year.”


Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who authored bills granting the authority to levy fines, said the new laws were being used as planned, as enforcement tools.

For years, surfers attempting to enter the water at Paradise Cove have complained about harassment and exorbitant fees. Surfers who attempted to carry their boards across the sand at Paradise Cove were routinely turned away.

Only residents of the gated mobile home park at Paradise Cove and their guests were allowed to carry surfboards across the sand to the surf break, which is in public waters.

As The Times reported in early November, the agencies’ investigation was sparked by multiple episodes, some involving members of the Black Surfers Collective, a nonprofit group that promotes diversity in the sport. Another involved Oren Dothan, a surfer who said he and a friend were required to pay $40 to a parking lot attendant in September to avoid a trespassing charge.

Kissel Co. holds a 10-year lease on the pier that expires in 2019. Efforts to reach Steven F. Dahlberg, president of Paradise Cove Land Co., were unsuccessful.

Even with its lofty parking fees, Paradise Cove — which features a cafe and tidy beach — has become a popular destination. The beach is reached from Pacific Coast Highway via private Paradise Cove Road, which is lined with signs painted on surfboards saying “No Surfboards.”

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