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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Don’t let wealthy landowners keep Californians from their beaches

Hollister Ranch
Sand dunes along Cuarto Beach on the Hollister Ranch coastline.
(Tamlorn Chase / For The Times)

To the editor: I was born, raised and lived for 65 years in Southern California, where I grew used to being able to visit the wonderful beaches when I wanted to. I have followed the public access controversies over the years in Malibu and especially Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

I did not fully understand just how important California’s beach access law was until moving recently to Washington state. I was shocked and dismayed to be walking along one of the beautiful beaches here only to be stopped at several points by large posted signs forbidding me to go any farther and threatening arrest for trespassing because the land was private property.

I enthusiastically support the effort to open Hollister Ranch’s beaches and keep all beaches in California as public property. As Joni Mitchell wrote in 1970, “You don’t know what you got til it’s gone.”

Michael Spore, Port Orchard, Wash.

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To the editor: Assembly Bill 1680 is a misguided attempt to require that the public be allowed to enter Hollister Ranch and access its 8.5 miles of privately owned shoreline. If Gov. Gavin Newsom signs this legislation, it should be challenged in court, where I am confident it will be overturned.

As a lawyer who authored a law review article on the California Coastal Commission overreach, I have done the research to know that the public does not have a state constitutional right to access private property, especially in the case of Hollister Ranch, where there has been no prior public access.

Even if one (incorrectly) assumes that the state has the right to enact this legislation, that ignores the federal protection afforded all landowners under the 5th Amendment’s takings clause, which states that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation.

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There is a good reason Gov. Jerry Brown did not sign a similar piece of legislation before leaving office. I recommend that Newsom direct state officials to work out a reasonable agreement with Hollister Ranch to provide limited but meaningful access in an area suitable for public use.

Kevin Johnson, Laguna Beach


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