Of the 111 beach accessways in Southern California, only 67 have opened access, according to a report presented at a Thursday meeting of the California Coastal Commission.
Members of the commission took the unusual step of visiting several exclusive beaches on Thursday, including some that lack proper public access to the shore.
The meeting came as advocates for beach access at Dan Blocker County Beach, an 11-acre site in picturesque Malibu, were pushing officials to open it up.
“It’s disappointing to me that such a large entity as L.A. County can’t come up with a million bucks to open this beach,” said Malibu City Councilman Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, an advocate for beach access. “They failed to uphold their end of the obligation.”
The commission took a four-hour bus tour around Malibu as part of its regular meeting in Santa Monica. Commissioners wanted to see firsthand the exclusive beaches and talk about access issues.
The commission has long sought to mandate as much access to beaches along the California coast as possible, sometimes against the wishes of wealthy homeowners who want to keep the sand to themselves.
One of the stops was the eastern end of Carbon Beach, which is dotted with mansions. From Pacific Coast Highway, a cluster of development blocks the sea view.
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“If you’re a visitor to this area, if you’re not familiar, you would have no idea there’s a beach on the other side,” said Linda Locklin, coastal access program manager.
Working with local groups, the commission was able to open a pathway in 2005, but many desirable stretches of sand along the coast still lack adequate access, Locklin said.
Locklin presented a report that found of the 111 beach accessways in Southern California acquired by the commission, only 67 have opened.
California’s Coastal Act of 1976 ensures beach access, but regulators have run into years-long legal battles with homeowners in several cases.
The commission, created to plan and regulate the use of land and water along the coast, also has had to contend with some property owners who post fake “no parking” and “private beach” signs to keep out visitors.
Beach pathways along the state’s 1,100 miles of coast are typically managed by a patchwork of state and local agencies as well as nonprofits.
For years, access has been an issue at Blocker Beach, an area popular among divers and fishermen.
The site is named after Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright in the hit TV series “Bonanza.” In 1979, the property was donated to the state by Blocker’s “Bonanza” co-stars, Lorne Greene and Michael Landon.
In 1995, the state transferred the property to Los Angeles County.
In 2004, the county received a grant of $700,000 to make improvements, but the funding fell short of what was required to make improvements, said Carol Baker, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors.
Steep-terrain and environmental considerations for the beach, which sits at the foot of a steep bluff, make development there costly, she said. The county department also had other development priorities, projects they say had a bigger impact for the public.
“Getting additional funds has been difficult,” Baker said. “We’re frustrated with length of time it has taken.”
Since 2004, the county made a number of large-scale beach improvements - spending $15 million on Will Rogers State Beach and $17 million at Dockweiler State Beach. The county has responsibility for maintaining state beaches in L.A. County, Baker said.
Plans for the $4.8 million project at Blocker include picnic tables, restrooms, a parking lot for 14 vehicles, and a ramp down the bluff.
In order to get the project off the ground, officials hope to acquire a piece of private property nearby Blocker Beach they say they need to make the improvements, Baker said.
Officials plan to take their Blocker Beach proposal this summer to the County Supervisors for approval. If it’s approved, it could take a year to complete, Baker said.
Beach access and development in Malibu have been issues for years. Most recently, the Coastal Commission rejected a plan by U2's The Edge to build five homes in the hills.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.