Bulldozer tactics by Malibu's super-rich

It is a perennial conundrum for any self-respecting Malibu millionaire: How to stop the public from unrolling their gaudy towels on the beach in front of your house and cluttering up the view of the ocean from the infinity pool.

The answer this year, it seems, is as simple as it is drastic. The association representing owners of the 108 palatial homes that front Broad Beach—one of Malibu’s most exclusive locations, where the residents include Goldie Hawn, Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman and Danny DeVito—has caused uproar by using bulldozers to remove the beach.

Tonnes of wet sand were pushed from the publicly owned area up to the high tide mark, creating a huge barrier.

According to a nine page letter of protest sent to the association by the California coastal commission, and quoted in the Los Angeles Times, the removal of sand has lowered the profile of the public beach so that “public access is cut off by wave run-up and standing water”.

The commission has ordered an immediate halt to the unpermitted “grading”, which it claims has harmed wildlife, including grunion, a small fish that spawns on the Malibu beaches at this time of year.

Lisa Haage, the commission’s chief of enforcement, said she was appalled by the land grab, the latest skirmish in a long running battle over public access to the beach.

“The unmitigated nerve of this is staggering,” Richard Menna, a kite-surfing instructor from the San Fernando Valley, told the LA Times. “I know people who’ve gotten tickets for just picking up a few rocks on state beaches.
There must be thousands of tonnes of sand taken from state property.”

But Marshall Grossman, a Broad Beach homeowner and lawyer, told the newspaper that the intent was not to block public access, but to restore the sandy dunes in front of the homes that were eroded during storms last winter. “When that happens, homeowners bring their own sand back to the dunes, or bring in replacement sand from outside. It doesn’t interfere with public access, because the dunes are simply restored to what they were.”

Last year the commission demanded that homeowners remove dozens of no-trespassing signs and stop patrols by security guards in all-terrain vehicles designed to keep people off private property in the summer.

“I’d be intimidated”, Haage told the New York Times. “When you go to the beach you want a happy day. You don’t want armed conflict.”

The owners of the exclusive properties—ranging in value from $5m to $45m—claim their anxiety is based on the behaviour of a minority of troublemakers who have been known to lounge on patio furniture belonging to residents, paparazzo who pretend to be surfers, and fans looking for celebrities.

Grossman told the New York Times that some interlopers had even been caught taking showers, using the swimming pool or sleeping in private homes.

Traditionally, the millionaire homeowners have blocked public access to the beaches for long stretches by keeping pathways closed and nailing up “private beach” signs.

But last month the billionaire music mogul David Geffen lost a three-year fight to stop surfers walking across his Malibu estate to reach the ocean. He was ordered to open wooden gates that provide access to a path across his property to the beach, giving the public free access to the ocean. The path is the first of 10 that Access for All, a non-profit group, is trying to open in Malibu. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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