“Christmas came early,” according to the state, as Paradise Cove, one of Malibu’s most popular tourist destinations, agreed to no longer charge visitors for beach privileges.
The California Coastal Commission (CCC) came down hard on Paradise Cove in November, threatening to levy heavy fines if the business did not stop charging a $20 — sometimes $40 — fee for “walk-ins.” The deal also requires the pier to be unlocked and all signs banning surfing to be removed. Steven Dahlberg of Kissel Co. represented Paradise Cove in the deal.
The agreement was announced Thursday and drew great support from several state leaders who touted a recently enacted law giving the CCC authority to fine those who block beach access in violation of the California Coastal Act.
“This is a triumph for public access, and proof that the threat of fines is a very effective enforcement tool,” said Steve Kinsey, Coastal Commission chairman. “We’ve never seen a violation of this magnitude resolved so quickly. Christmas came early for the coast this year.”
Putting this deal in motion last month fulfilled a longtime goal of CCC Enforcement Officer Pat Veesart, who said lack of adequate beach access to Paradise Cove has been a thorn in his side for years.
“Over the years, I’ve had many complaints about Paradise Cove, and most of the complaints have either related to people feeling like they were prevented from walking in or being charged to walk in to the beach,” Veesart said. “It’s been on my radar screen, but I don’t feel like I’ve had a hammer. There’s not much I could do about it; it’s private property.”
That changed, however, when the CCC was granted permission to issue fines for blocking beach access in June of this year. After a “high profile” case of two surfers being blocked by sheriffs from surfing in the cove, a nonprofit called the Black Surfers Collective reached out to Veesart, stating that they too were not allowed to carry surfboards at Paradise Cove.
The State Lands Commission also became involved when it was determined Paradise Cove is subject to a state lease.
“We hope this decision sends a strong message that the State Lands Commission and the Coastal Commission are fully committed to protecting beach access for all Californians” said State Lands Commission Executive Officer Jennifer Lucchesi.
For locals and residents who live in the Paradise Cove Mobile Home Park, there may be a notable spike in the amount of people visiting the famed beach. The area is frequently full during the peak summer season but Malibu City Councilmember Laura Rosenthal, who has worked on several Pacific Coast Highway safety issues, said she still is not sure how the decision could impact traffic and parking along PCH near Paradise Cove.
“The whole Paradise Cove area always raises red flags for me,” she said, noting that the city has tried to post “No Parking” signs in the area on PCH after obtaining approval from Caltrans.
“So many people park on PCH already. Will more people do that? I don’t know,” she said. “ ... I think that we could probably do a better job trying to get people to go to Zuma Beach instead, where it’s much safer.”
If anything, Rosenthal believes more surfers will be taking advantage of the access.
“What I guess will happen is that probably during the week there will be more surfers there early in the morning when there’s more open parking. The crowds don’t usually come to the area until later [in the day.]”