Editorial: Homeowners should remove beach encroachments

The sand lining some Balboa Peninsula homes is adorned with grassy, sprinkler-fed landscaping. Personal fire pits, patio furniture, toys, playground equipment, sculptures and other features are commonplace.

Some would argue, and they would not be incorrect, that the plantlife and adornments make otherwise remarkable swaths of the peninsula's tip more appealing.

But that, of course, is not the point when it comes to publicly owned land. The beach, which belongs to the public, is not for homeowners to improve. When they spruce up even small spaces in front of their homes it makes unknowing beachgoers think they cannot sunbathe or picnic in a given spot. All of those small spaces add up to a lot of public land.

As the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, the encroachments appear to violate state law, which bars limiting access to even the fewest grains of public sand.

"The order from the state Coastal Commission reignites the perennial clash between the government and homeowners up and down the coast who have sought to claim the sand next to their homes and, in so doing, given visitors the impression that the public beach is their private backyard," The Times reported.

We agree with the state. Keeping the beach in public hands is so important to California that its protections are written into the state constitution. Homeowners should comply with the written directives from the Coastal Commission to remove the incursions; they are being asked to obey good and just laws.

Homeowners also should drop talk of suing the state. Defending these orders is not worth precious taxpayer money. The state, responding to complaints about the incursions, is merely upholding a public benefit. Though our state government is known better for getting things wrong, its fervent commitment to protecting coastal access for all Californians is one of the things it does right.

At risk of offending some of our loyal readers on the farthest reaches of the peninsula, we implore them to comply with the Coastal Commission. We will give some homeowners the benefit of the doubt that they did not know their improvements were incursions.

And we sympathize, albeit mildly, with residents who plant lawns to keep sand from blowing onto their patios and into their homes. But at the end of the day, the beach is not their garden. Being inundated with sand is one of the known drawbacks of living on the beach, but it is, of course, one of the only ones.

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