Like an untapped gold mine on “Bonanza,” Malibu’s rough-hewn Dan Blocker Beach sits along a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway waiting to become a piece of public treasure.
Publicly owned since 1979 but never made easily accessible, the LA County Department of Public Works is seeking permit approval from the Malibu Planning Commission at a Jan. 6 meeting on $5.5-million plans to improve public access at the beach. Currently, the one-mile stretch of shoreline is encumbered by tattered fencing and overgrown dry brush.
Third District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky predicts the county could break ground on the one-year project by April 14, pending approval from the Planning Commission and the county hiring a consultant.
Blueprints for the Dan Blocker Beach Access Improvement Project include plans for 14 parking spaces with 90-minute metered parking, one ADA-compliant parking space, a 242-square-foot public restroom, concrete picnic tables, three public viewing areas and concrete benches.
Yaroslavsky originally estimated the project would be completed by summer 2012. Nearly 18 months after that season passed, Yaroslavsky on Tuesday faulted the bureaucratic planning process for the project’s delays.
“These access projects are complicated and they’re expensive,” he said.
Actors Michael Landon and Lorne Greene, who bought the beach and named it after their co-star Blocker, a.k.a. “Hoss,” on the western-themed television show “Bonanza,” donated the property to the state in 1979. The one-mile stretch of beach runs from Latigo Shore Drive east to Corral Canyon Road along Pacific Coast Highway. Greene and Landon intended the land to be used for public recreation. After acquiring a couple of pieces of neighboring land, the state donated Blocker Beach to the county in 1995.
But the one-mile stretch of beach has devolved into a rather meager eyesore in the past three decades, as decades-old fencing keeps out the public while litter from passersby piles up among the brush.
Fed up with a lack of response from the county and Yaroslavsky in 2011, former Malibu Mayor Jefferson Wagner and current Councilman John Sibert pressured the county to hand over control of Blocker Beach to the City of Malibu, which does not operate any city beaches. The county rejected their offer.
Two years later, Wagner this week said he is “hopeful” about the permit coming up for approval. Still, he believes the county has neglected the project for too long.
“It’s the people’s beach, it needs to be open,” Wagner said.
Yaroslavsky doubted Malibu’s ability to speed up the project had it been under city oversight.
“We’re paying for the lion’s share of it, the county is,” he said. “...We don’t typically give people our project. [The city] would have had the same issues with private property ownership.”
The county obtained a final one-acre piece of neighboring land in November 2012 for $400,000. Since then, the permit for the access project has been working its way through the City of Malibu’s planning department.
“We had to obtain the land adjacent to it and deal with the City of Malibu in planning it,” Yaroslavsky said. “...At the request of the city we bifurcated the project.”
With plans bifurcated, or divided, the project is addressed into two segments (east and west), with two access points planned on the eastern portion of the land and development of parking and all other facilities planned on the western portion.
Funding for the project is expected to come from money collected by the Safe Neighborhood Parks Proposition passed in 1996, state fees collected from vehicle license fees and the Los Angeles County 2012-2013 capital project/refurbishment budget.
The area set to be developed spans about 300 linear feet and is 50 feet wide, according to city planner Stephanie Hawner.
If the Planning Commission approves the permit but a member of the public appeals a decision, the project goes to a hearing before the Malibu City Council.
A full staff report on the Dan Blocker project should be available online at malibucity.org this week.