Culture

In Malibu, Trouble on 'Billionaires' Beach'

Ah, wilderness! (Shutterstock)

The California Coastal Commission — one of the most powerful administrative bodies in the Golden State — long ago ruled that the beaches belong to everybody, and that homeowners with choice beachfront property could not legally block access to them. Of course, in places like Malibu, the super-rich (who generally vote Democrat) tend to ignore the consequences of the sentiments they express at the ballot box. So the CCC decided it was time to make an example of some of them:

For decades, some Malibu property owners have made it hard for the public to reach public beaches. On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission fined two of those property owners more than $5.1 million for denying surfers, sand castle builders, kite flyers, sun bathers, yoga enthusiasts and other beachgoers access to the sand that is theirs by state law.

In one of those decisions, the commission had battled for nine years with Dr. Warren M. Lent and his wife, Henny, before unanimously approving Thursday’s cease-and-desist order for the couple and fining them about $4.2 million for diverting a public easement to private use at an expensive oceanfront rental they own at Las Flores Beach.

Commissioners described the Lent case as “very egregious” and a “flagrant violation” of state law because the couple had long refused a commission request to remove an unauthorized gate, fence, stairway and deck that blocked an easement required by a coastal development permit issued to a previous owner. The fine was far more than the $950,000 recommended by the agency’s staff.

“This represents an attitude we often see in Malibu — that the shore is our private backyard,” said Commissioner Mark Vargas, who made the motion at Thursday’s hearing for a $4.185-million fine. “It’s clear that they are dragging this on as long as they can and damaging the public’s right to use the beach.”

Good for the CCC. Sure, nobody wants to shell out millions and lose some privacy. But that’s how it works in California, where land ownership extends only to the high-water line, leaving the “wet” beach to the public.

In the second action, commissioners approved an amicable settlement with the owners of the Malibu Beach Inn at Carbon Beach, which is known as “Billionaires’ Beach.”

Under the agreement, owners Simon and Daniel Mani, who are West Hollywood real estate investors, must build two long-required stairways to the sand, install a $425,000 signalized crosswalk near the hotel and pay $200,000 in fines as well as $300,000 to a local conservation agency.

Based on extensive personal experience in Malibu, there are a lot of pretty girls in bikinis whose daddies and boyfriends don’t own houses on Carbon or La Costa beaches. What grinch would deny these young ladies their civil rights?