New Law Gives Commission Power to Fine Over Beach Access

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In a move addressing a longtime source of conflict between California surfers and beachfront residents, Governor Brown has signed into law a bill that fines property owners for illegally blocking beach access to the public as well as other violations. Vikki Vargas reports from Dana Point for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 23, 2014. (Published Monday, Jun 23, 2014)

    Some beachfront property owners may soon face fines as Gov. Jerry Brown signs a new bill into law that would regulate the illegal blocking of beach access.

    The law grants the California Coastal Commission the power to fine those who block beach access to the public. Homeowners could be fined $1,250 a day – no court order needed. Under the new law, the California Coastal Commission can also fine those who destroy habitats or build without a permit.

    At Strands Beach in Orange County’s Dana Point, the gates adjacent to a development of beachfront homes are only open during certain hours – 8 a.m to 7 p.m. during the summer, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the winter. The new law could mean that the gates would be open around the clock. The only alternate way to access the sand has been described as "two football fields away."

    "It’s pretty inconvenient parking up here and going all the way down there. So I think it’s better (the gates) be open as often as they can," beach goer Thomas Konogeris said.

    According to Chad Nelson of the Surfrider Foundation, there have been nearly 2,000 cases where the Coastal Commission had its hands tied until the new rule went into effect.

    “Strands is a case in point as to why we need this enforcement,” Nelson said. “If they want to limit the hours, it’s simple. They should follow the law like everybody else and go seek a permit with the coastal commission, which is very clear.”

    Nelson said that the housing developer in the area promised “maximum access” but then limited that access based on time of the day. The Surfrider Foundation is now suing the city of Dana Point for approving the gates.

    According to an NBC4 report, it is unclear whether the new law would affect Strands Beach or others where there is both public and private beach access.

    NBC4 reached out to both the developer of the property and to the city manager. Both referred NBC4 to their attorneys, who had not replied by the time of publication.

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