From Exclusivity to Inclusivity: Restoring Public Access at Escondido Beach

June 19, 2023
2 mins read

Escondido Beach. located in Malibu, California, it has been mostly accessible to the public since the 1980s, when homeowners in the area blocked off the access. California law mandates, however, that land below the high tide line should remain open to all. The California Coastal Commission, after a years-long legal battle, approved an agreement on June 7th to restore public access to the beach, with the cost of restoration being covered by the wealthy homeowners in the area.

Two homeowners, Frank Mancuso Sr., a former executive of Paramount Pictures and MGM, and the Wildman Family Trust, heirs of Don Wildman, the late founder of Bally Total Fitness, are required to take specific actions to restore public access. An unpermitted driveway on his property will have to be demolished by Mancuso and he will have to pay a $600,000 fine.

The illegal development installed by Don Wildman will be removed by the Wildman Family Trust, which will relocate the public access easement closer to its intended location. A public beach accessway from Pacific Coast Highway will also be constructed by them, along with five public parking spots and a restroom. These improvements will cost an estimated $3 million.

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Public access to the beach has been obstructed by the neighboring properties by installing private driveways, walls, mailboxes, and palm trees. Ken and Jeanette Chiate along with Marlyn and Roger Work, the former owners, were responsible for blocking access initially. Arguing that they inherited the violations, Mancuso and the Wildman family, however, agreed to finance the restoration.

The CCC (California Coastal Commission) emphasized the importance of public access to beaches and expressed hope that this enforcement action would send a message to other property owners who may be hiding or blocking access to the coast. Regardless of where they live, restoring access to beaches is believed by CCC to be its core mission, so it should be made available to everyone.

Ironically translated to “hidden,” Escondido Beach had previously been accessible through the popular restaurant Geoffrey’s or by paying an entrance fee to park at Paradise Cove, located a quarter mile away. Considering the challenges of obtaining new access points to the coast, particularly in Malibu, this limited access will now be expanded. The restoration of public access to the beach is viewed as a significant achievement for the public.

Similar battles with wealthy landowners have been fought in California in the past, as they blocked public access to natural resources. A billionaire venture capitalist was forced by a California court to restore access to a beach he had closed off for private use in 2017. The commission opened a new accessway to Carbon Beach after a lengthy legal fight in 2015.

Situated in an area that is home to many ultra-wealthy residents, Escondido Beach includes celebrities such as Jay-Z and Beyonce, as well as billionaire David Saperstein, the founder of Metro Networks. Having a history of attracting affluent individuals, the region was previously sought by notable figures like Tom Petty, who sought refuge in oceanfront bungalows in the locality.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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