App Might Help Malibu Beach-Goers Reclaim Turf from Billionaires

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Want to butt heads with billionaires who try to wall off public beaches in Malibu?

There is almost an app for that.

Environmental writer Jenny Price and Escape Apps have designed a smartphone application—Our Malibu Beaches—that identifies hidden public beaches and previously unidentified access points to them along Malibu’s 27-mile coastline. Until now, the wealthy people who own homes along 20 miles of that exclusive shore have been very successful at shutting the public out.

But that may end this summer when Price’s app is released. The program shows where each public access point is along the Malibu coast and helps find parking by identifying where residents have erected garage facades, fake parking cones and bogus signs to keep the riff-raff out. The app will give a walking tour, house by house, of the beach.  

The California Coastal Commission has been agitating for beach access since its inception in 1972, with little success. While the state recommends that there be public access to the ocean every 1,000 feet, the standard is nowhere in evidence in Malibu. If it were, there would be 105 coastal access points in Malibu, not the current 17.

The Los Angeles Times wrote about Price’s app and highlighted a battle with entertainment billionaire David Geffen, who reluctantly agreed in 1983 to allow beach access that he shouldn’t have been blocking in the first place. Twenty-two years later, after being lampooned as Lord Geffen in Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip, he finally put in the unmarked gate that runs along the side of his property.  

The city of Malibu and its 13,000 residents incorporated 10 years ago. City officials support its high-profile beach residents, who have battled in court for years to preserve their sanctuaries. But two bills pending in the state Legislature could have some impact on the situation. 

Assembly Bill 976 would give the Coastal Commission the power to levy fines for violations of the state Coastal Act, instead of having to rely on costly court fights to enforce their decisions. Assembly Bill 203 would let the commission hold up approval of a new project if a landowner has failed to comply with orders to fix previous violations of the Coastal Act.

The potential impact of the proposed legislation is hard to gauge. There is currently a commission backlog of 1,867 Coastal Act complaints, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and increase of 567 since 2009.

Our Malibu Beaches is expected to be out next month for use on iPads and iPhones, with a version for Android devices soon to follow.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Scouting Out Malibu Beaches? There's an App for That (by Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times)

Malibu's Rich and Famous Fight to Keep Beach Private (by Martin Kasindorf, USA Today)

Bill Adds Teeth to Coastal Act: Fake “No Parking” Signs Could Draw Fines (by Jason Hoppin, Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Malibu Beach App Has City Buzzing (by Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times)

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