For the last 40 years, Escondido Beach in Malibu has been obscured from the public after wealthy homeowners in the area decided it would be so. Per a report from The Guardian (and in spite of a California law that requires land below the high tide line remain open to all), “complicated legal and construction maneuvers” allowed them to cut off access to the strip of coastline well-known for its “placid waters and golden sand” back in the 1980s.
Aptly named (Escondido means “hidden” in Spanish), the beach is tucked away along a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, and behind two private properties — one owned by Frank Mancuso Sr, former chief executive of Paramount Pictures and MGM, and the other by the heirs of Bally Total Fitness founder Don Wildman. To access it at all, you had to enter through Geoffrey’s, a restaurant a half a mile away, or pay to park at a lot a quarter of a mile away.
Until now, that is. Earlier this month after an apparent years-long legal battle, the California coastal commission has approved an agreement which would see public access to Escondido restored.
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Further, as The Guardian notes, the restoration will be paid for by those same wealthy homeowners, though both Manusco and the Wildman family claim to have “inherited the violations” in question (palm trees, private driveways, mailboxes, walls, etc.). Now, in addition to constructing a public access way from the PCH, they will also install five public parking spots and a restroom to the tune of more than $3 million.
Of course, this isn’t the first time California has gone head-to-head with the ultra-wealthy over blocked public access to natural resources like beaches. The good news is that almost every instance has ended in the public’s favor.
“Beaches are California’s crown jewels, and public access is a core mission of our law,” said Donne Brownsey, the California coastal commission chair. “Access is for everyone, whether you live down the street or in the Central valley or you’re visiting from across the globe. We hope this enforcement action sends a message to other property owners who may be hiding or blocking access to the coast that it’s time return those beaches to the public.”
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