Another fundamental clash is brewing between the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority’s (MRCA) desire to share Malibu’s public resources and some Malibu coastal residents. The MRCA has announced plans to enhance nine existing beach access points along Pacific Coast Highway as well as build seven new pathways for visitors to get to the beach.

A little more than 20 Malibu residents voiced their concerns last Wednesday evening at King Gillette Ranch where the MRCA held a scoping meeting detailing its Malibu Coastal Access Public Works plan and to hear public comments. The general feedback on expansion plans was not supportive. Some attendees claimed attendance was poor because they only received word of the meeting that very day.

MRCA project manager Jessica Nguyen laid out the details to “increase public access and recreation opportunities along the coast in Malibu.” Seventeen beach accessways would be built or improved. The sites could include stairways, timed locked gates, fencing, guardrails, walkways, decks, picnic areas, bicycle racks, restrooms and signage. The proposed development labeled D7 at Escondido Beach would even include four parking spaces including one ADA compliant spot. MRCA would manage the sites as it currently does in some locations. 

Malibu resident Alan Armstrong, who lives off PCH near one of the currently open access points, had concerns about security at the sites. 

“Our accessway is open 24/7. When it was originally established, it was dawn to dusk like all the LA County parks, but ours got changed by a manager who’s no longer involved,” Armstrong said. “In talking to the sheriffs, they say if it’s not closed after dusk it’s very hard to maintain security.” Armstrong said he had seen and heard it all—from notorious drug running panga boats to a pornography shoot and transients breaking into homes and starting fires: “All kinds of strange things happen. It’s an invitation. Please, [only keep it open from] dawn to dusk. It’ll save somebody’s life.”

Autumn Robinson, a beach resident who lives near two access points, gave a homeowner’s perspective that the designers of the projects may not have been aware of. 

“We have had a home invasion,” she said, claiming the gates to accessways do not lock at night. “When you’re that close to the ocean, the salt air messes with the mechanics of the locks. There’s no way to ensure they’re going to be maintained unless you’re replacing them regularly or have someone manually locking them. It has invited more homelessness. 

“We have vagrants sleeping in the park near our home urinating, defecating, using drugs,” Robinson continued. “Our children are afraid to go outside. There’s no parking on PCH. We now have people who see an inviting sign. They literally slam on their brakes. We have fender benders in front of our house.  The bluff where we’re at has started to fall. Caltrans sprayed concrete because PCH is failing. It’s hazardous. Where people cross PCH, it’s a recipe for disaster.” Robinson asked for reconsideration to expand a beach access near her home when another safer access point with a crosswalk is already fairly close by.

Some questioned the purpose of public access to a “wet/dry beach.” 

“Half the time, it’s rocks,” according to another resident, Ben Leeds. “Without a slow lane to turn off and park, people are going to die. There’s going to be lawsuits. You need a turnoff and better parking. To give public access at this point is a foolish maneuver when you can go a quarter mile away for access with parking.”

Rodney Perlman questioned public safety. 

“I’m afraid we’re going to kill somebody out there,” Perlman said. “Our tides get very high and very violent. How are you going to advise the public of the risk they face with no way to get off the beach in a high tide?”

While Malibu council member and pier concessionaire Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner said the city encourages visitors, he also pointed out, “These homeowners are the ones impacted. It gets pretty ugly underneath some of these homes near the accesses currently being used.” Wagner also mentioned sea level rise. 

“Here we are building access to the beach and it won’t be there as per sea level rise in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years,” Wagner said.

The MRCA and the California Coastal Conservancy are working together to develop the public parks Plan and the environmental impact report on the proposed developments. Any development must receive approval from the California Coastal Commission. 

Those wishing to voice their comments can email or write to Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority 

Re: Malibu Coastal Access Public Works Plan

Attn: Jessica Nguyen, Project Manager

26800 Mulholland Highway, Calabasas, CA 91302.

Comments must be received by 5 p.m. on Feb. 7, 2020.

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