After a decades-long dispute, a path to "Billionaires' Beach" officially opened Tuesday, giving the public easy access to one of Malibu's most elusive beaches.
Carbon Beach, nicknamed "Billionaires' Beach," has been one of the most hard-to-reach beaches in Malibu, because homeowners have resisted public access by putting up "no parking" and "private beach signs," and by refusing to build required public accessways.
The 1.5-mile stretch of beach is home to wealthy celebrities and homeowners like entertainment mogul David Geffen, and Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton.
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"This new public path has been a long time coming," said Charles Lester, Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission. "Families can finally walk straight down to this beach instead of having to walk a half mile from the next nearest accessway."
The legal dispute over the path announced Tuesday began in the 1980s after the California Coastal Commission issued permits to Malibu homeowners Lisette and Norman Ackerberg so they could built a house, pool, tennis court and 140-foot-long sea wall on their beach front lots.
But those permits also required them to provide a public path to the beach.
Instead, the Ackerbergs created a 9-foot high wall, and added large boulders along with a fence and other landscaping where the public path would have been, violating the Coastal Act of 1976 and their building permits issued by the commission.
Lisette Ackerberg, whose husband died in 2004, filed a lawsuit to overturn the requirement for the path.
Ackerberg and the commission finally reached a settlement in 2013 that required Ackerberg to pay over $1 million for the construction and operation of the accessway, and for Coastal Act violations.
Ackerberg has since offered to build a wheelchair accessible path from Pacific Coast Highway down to the beach.
"I'm especially proud, to give people with disabilities a safe and efficient way to access and enjoy the magnificent beauty of Malibu," Ackerberg said through her attorney.
Graham Hamilton, chairman of the West LA/Malibu chapter of the Surfrider Foundation said he is pleased with the opening, but acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead, according to The Associated Press.
"It's a small victory in a very large battle," Hamilton said. "We hope that any development that is going to take place in the future remembers the citizens' rights under the California Coastal Act and state constitution, which allow public access to coastal lines."
The new path, officially called the Carbon Beach West pathway, is open from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset.
"Keeping beaches free and open is always going to be something we have to fight for," Hamilton said. "If we can teach beachgoers they have a right to access the beach, hopefully that will inspire them to appreciate it and protect it for future generations."