Did you know that there is no such thing as a fully private beach in California? Every single beach in the state is, at least in part, public land. If this fact is news to you, you’re not alone. CSW Research Scholar Jenny Price has spent the last several months developing a mobile phone app called Our Malibu Beaches to help clarify the divisions between public and private beaches in the titular city. Drawing on 10 years of Price’s research and writing on California’s beaches, the app shows a house-by-house list of where anyone may use the Malibu shorefront.
In a recent interview with AirTalk, Price explained that every beach in the state is public, at minimum, below the mean high tide line, which is the ocean’s average high tide line over the past 18.6 years. The working definition of that line, Price said, is the wet sand from the most recent high tide. In other words, all wet sand in California is open to everyone. There are many beaches where the dry sand is also public space, which is where the app comes in handy. The problem with Malibu’s beaches, Price said, is that many wealthy homeowners along the coast use illegal signs, cones, fences, and locks to obfuscate or outright block public parking and walkways to the beaches. In addition, some homeowners employ private security to intimidate aspiring beachgoers even more. Price explained that the California Coastal Commission takes this issue seriously but doesn’t have the resources to keep up with the sheer number of illegal signs and locks on access points—which are too few in number anyway—up and down the coast.
Our Malibu Beaches helps by detailing public access points and parking and the hours that each are open. (While public beaches and easements are open 24/7, the same is not necessarily true for all access points leading to them.) The app also contains tools for contacting public agencies if users run into resistance from beachfront homeowners. By crowdsourcing the locations of illegal signs and other site-specific obstructions, the app helps make sure everyone has the access to these beautiful beaches that they are entitled to by state law.
The app will launch for iPhone on June 2. A Kickstarter fund is underway now to raise money for an Android version and to keep the app free to download for as long as possible. Please consider donating to support access to Malibu’s public beaches!
To read more about the app and this issue, see: