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FREE THE BEACH!

The City Project works to preserve public access to the beach, to prevent destruction of the beach, and to promote climate justice by preventing sea level rise.  The California beach is the latest front in the struggle for equal justice. Wealthy beachfront enclaves like Malibu along California’s coast have sought to cut off the right of the people to reach the beach.

Free the Beach! Stop Action Video

Watch the short stop action video Free the Beach! by Sam García, Stanford ’18.

Coastal justice law amends CA Coastal Act, requires environmental justice commissioner

The L.A. Times reports:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed legislation aimed at providing a greater voice on the California Coastal Commission to racially diverse, low-income communities.

Brown signed a bill by Assemblywoman Autumn R. Burke (D-Inglewood) that requires one of the members appointed to the Coastal Commission by the governor to work directly with low-income communities in the state that are most burdened by high levels of pollution and other concerns. . . .

 “Every Californian deserves access to our coast,” Burke said recently, adding her bill [AB 2616] can “truly make a difference in communities that have been heavily polluted and repeatedly marginalized.”

The City Project worked with Azul, the California Coastal Protection Network, staff for Governor Brown, President Pro Tem Kevin de León, Assemblymember Burke and Senator Fran Pavley, and diverse allies to amend the Coastal Act. The law amends the Act in three major ways to promote coastal access and justice for all.

  1. The Act explicitly refers to state civil rights law that guarantees equal access to publicly funded resources and prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, and other factors, Government Code 11135. Section 11135 applies to all state agencies and recipients of state funding.
  2. The Act explicitly refers to the statutory definition of environmental justice. “Environmental justice” means the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to environmental laws, regulations, and policies under Government Code Section 65040.12.
  3. The governor is required to appoint a Commissioner experienced in and dedicated to environmental justice. And every Commissioner is required to comply with and enforce the cross-cutting equal justice laws.

The coastal justice law is a resounding endorsement of coastal justice by the legislature and governor. The law solidly refutes the unfounded and pernicious position that the Commission cannot consider environmental justice, as claimed by the late director Peter Douglas and others. (The hearing transcript is on file with The City Project.)

FREE THE BEACH! Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

The City Project’s campaign to maximize public access to the coastal zone while ensuring the fair treatment of people of all colors, cultures, and incomes is analyzed in Robert García and Erica Flores Baltodano, Free the Beach! Public Access, Equal Justice, and the California Coast, 2 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 143 (2005) (2 MB, PDF).

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Save our Coast and Climate for All!

mi costa mi derecho civil

We are more than environmentalists, we are civil rights, social and environmental justice, health, and education advocates. We look forward to working with our sisters and brothers in the mainstream environmental movement to ensure compliance with civil rights and environmental justice laws by the Commission, and to diversify the members and staff of the Commission so they better reflect the people of the new California.

What are the values at stake for all of us? The simple joys of playing on the beach, and in the surf. Human health. Climate justice and sea level rising, which disproportionately harm people of color and low income people. Culture, history, and spiritual values, including Native American sacred sites. Economic values – the coast generates billions of dollars each year in tourism, jobs, and wealth. Equal justice and democracy underlie these other values.

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Patrick Healy NBC News reports online on the campaign to save our coast, climate, and Coastal Commission for all!

Read the Letter from The City Project to the Commission Save Our Coast.

Erica Flores Baltodano Save Our Coast and Climate for All! California Coastal Commission 2016

Erica Flores Baltodano for The City Project public remarks Save Our Coast and Climate for All!

Read the group letter from 100 civil rights, environmental and social justice, health, education, and mainstream environmental groups and leaders – including Dr. Robert Bullard, the father of the environmental justice movement – supporting Executive Director Charles Lester to the Commission and elected officials. En español.

To add your voice, write to StatusOfExecutiveDirector@coastal.ca.gov.

Speak up at the Coastal Commission hearing February 10, 2016.

 

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LA Times: “The beach belongs to everybody. Not just the rich and famous and the mainstream enviros.” Gov. Brown mute.

“We’ve made tremendous progress under Dr. Lester,” said lawyer Robert Garcia of the City Project, which has fought for beach access in Malibu and other areas where private property owners have used guards, bogus signs and parking restrictions to keep citizens off public beaches. “The beach belongs to everybody. Not just the rich and famous and the mainstream enviros.”

Fifty environmental and social justice groups say that Lester’s five-year record of interpreting and enforcing the Coastal Act is a good one. That coalition made its feelings known Tuesday in a sharply worded letter delivered to commission Chairman Steve Kinsey and state leaders.

“We are deeply concerned over the unjustified and misguided attempt currently under way to oust Dr. Lester,” said the letter from representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Heal the Bay and dozens of other groups. . . .

The gang of 50 enviro groups’ letter also blows away any suggestion that Lester’s been sitting on a beach sunning himself.

Among the accomplishments it cites:

New penalties for those who illegally deny beach access.

A massive blueprint for helping local communities plan for sea-level rise.

The updating of local coastal plans up and down the state.

Reduced process times for permits and appeals.

Creation of a database so the public can get information on projects in the works.

Treating beach access for low-income and minority residents as a civil rights issue.

“We’ve made tremendous progress under Dr. Lester,” said lawyer Robert Garcia of the City Project, which has fought for beach access in Malibu and other areas where private property owners have used guards, bogus signs and parking restrictions to keep citizens off public beaches. “The beach belongs to everybody. Not just the rich and famous and the mainstream enviros.

* * *

Don’t defang coastal panel Sacramento Bee Robert García En español.

Keeping California’s Beaches Open for All NRPA Robert García.

Why the California Coastal Commission needs Charles Lester Press-Telegram Cruz Bustamante former California Lieutentant Governor

Sadly, the commissioners attempting to fire Dr. Lester are the ones with the worst environmental and social justice voting records.” San Jose Mercury News Huey D. Johnson, former California Secretary of Natural Resources

Robert García and Erica Flores Baltodano, Free the Beach! Public Access, Equal Justice, and the California Coast, 2 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 143 (2005).

Malibu Camping and Public Access on YouTube

Malibu cannot ban camping, which is permitted under the local coastal plan, yet illegal signs at the city limits purport to prohibit camping.

In December 2007 the Malibu City Council voted to prohibit camping on public campgrounds after a vitriolic public hearing. The Council claimed it was motivated by fear of recent fires – but no fire has ever been caused by supervised camp grounds since records have been kept in 1910. The signs predating the fires show Malibu simply wants to keep people out who cannot afford to live there or stay in high priced hotels and motels.

Watch YouTube videos of the acerbic Malibu public hearing.

Malibu Beach Destruction, Illegal Signs, and ATVS

Bulldoze Beaches
Broad Beach property owners bulldozed the public beach in June 2005. Click on the image to see the mashup on flickr and Google Earth.
In June 2005, property owners in Broad Beach took the utterly astonishing step of using heavy equipment to remove sand from public land and pile it onto their property. The property owners’ actions damaged natural resources along Broad Beach and demonstrate yet another attempt by homeowners in Malibu to impede the public’s right of access to publicly owned beaches.  By moving sand on public land up toward private property, property owners reduced public access along Broad Beach.  During low to medium tides, some areas along Broad Beach were virtually cut off from public access unless beach users walked on the berm or through access easements that would be located in property owners’ yards.

In addition to causing visual and aesthetic impacts and reducing public access, the bulldozing at Broad Breach caused significant environmental destruction, including damage to grunion runs, wrack link, dune vegetation, marine invertebrates, and intertidal zones; erosion and down coast beach damage; and destruction of habitat restoration.

The Attorney General for the State of California filed suit on behalf of the Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission against Trancas Property Owners Association, which represents property owners along Broad Beach, for violation of the Coastal Act, interference with legal public access to the beach, and conversion of beach minerals.

For years, wealthy Malibu homeowners posted illegal “private property” and “no trespassing” signs, and hired private security guards on all-terrain vehicles that harassed the public and prevented people from reaching the public beach.

The California Coastal Commission ordered an end to illegal “private property” and “no trespassing” signs, fencing, and private security guards on all-terrain vehicles in June 2004.  For more than a year the Commission negotiated with Trancas Property Owners Association, which represents property owners along Broad Beach in Malibu.

Working with concerned California residents Bernard Bruce, Carol Jacques, and Edwin Rosales, and other advocates, we demanded that the Coastal Commission enforce the public’s rights under relevant state laws.  The Commission unanimously voted to issue a cease and desist order against the Trancas Property Owners Association in August 2005.

The City Project published two Photograph Reports by Nicolas García extensively documenting the damage to the bulldozed beach, and the illegal signs and all-terrain vehicles at the beach.

Free the Beach! Campaign and Publications

The City Project’s campaign to maximize public access to the coastal zone while ensuring the fair treatment of people of all colors, cultures, and incomes is analyzed in Robert García and Erica Flores Baltodano, Free the Beach! Public Access, Equal Justice, and the California Coast, 2 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 143 (2005) (2 MB, PDF).

The City Project published two Photograph Reports by Nicolas García extensively documenting the damage to the bulldozed beach, and the illegal signs and all-terrain vehicles at the beach.

Our Policy Brief presents a short analyses of beach access (2 MB, PDF).

The City Project and others filed an amicus brief on behalf of MALDEF, Latino Urban Forum, and 26 other organizations in the California Supreme Court in Marine Forests v. California Coastal Commission, which upheld the constitutionality of the Coastal Commission in June 2005.

We recommend the following steps for maximizing access to the beach while ensuring the fair treatment of people of all colors, cultures, and incomes.

People should go to the beach and have fun. Every beach outing is a victory for public access. Paths to and along the beach should be clear and well marked with user-friendly signs. Beach signs should explain that the California coast belongs to all the people, with maps showing public access. Beaches should have well-maintained toilets and trash cans. There should be affordable buses or shuttles to the beach, with bus stops within a short walking distance of each access path. There should be pedestrian cross walks to and from beach access paths to get across traffic safely. There should be ample parking near the beach access paths.

Appropriate signs and law enforcement must protect the right to reach the beach. Phony and misleading “no trespassing” and “private beach” signs should be banned and removed from public beaches. Private security guards should be prohibited from harassing the public on public beaches. All-terrain vehicles should be prohibited on public beaches. Local law enforcement agencies should zealously enforce the public’s right to use the beach, rather than harass people.

Public education campaigns must inform the public that the beach belongs to all the people, and that public beaches must be safeguarded from environmental destruction.

Strategic media campaigns will help inform the public about beach access and focus public dialogue. Radio and television shows, newspaper articles and editorials, and even comic strips like Doonesbury should address beach access, disparities in beach access, and the legal, policy, and historical justifications for beach access.
Diverse coalitions must work together to support equal access to the beach. Activists should organize diverse coalitions in strategic campaigns focusing on the different values at stake, to bring people together to support broader access to the beach. Social justice and environmental organizations should collaborate substantively and to seek funding to advocate for equal access to the beach.

Southern California should develop and implement a strategic plan for a “Transit to Trails” program to take people to trails, beaches, parks, forests, lakes, and other public natural space.

The Coastal Commission must provide the information necessary to support informed decision making. Mapping the entire coastline with existing accessways and Census 2000 demographic data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based on race, ethnicity, income, access to cars, and other salient factors will help agencies, the legislature, and the public identify beach access hotspots and the interplay between coastal access and coastal demographics.

Local Coastal Plans must support public access to the beach.

Legislation must support public access to the beach. The California legislature and former Governor Davis reaffirmed principles of coastal access through Senate Bill 1962, which provides a safety net for beach access. SB 1962 requires the Coastal Conservancy to accept easements for access to the beach that are within three months of their expiration date. Reports to the Legislature on the progress of SB 1962 should explicitly address how the Conservancy is maximizing public access while ensuring the fair treatment of people of all colors, cultures, and incomes. Coastal advocates, legislators, and the Coastal Commission should support key recommendations by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) for improving the Coastal Commission’s model of mitigation for coastal permits.

  • Support legislation requiring the State Coastal Conservancy to accept responsibility for maintenance of and liability for public accessways until a long-term third-party is identified so that the Coastal Commission can require the permitee to develop the accessway upon completion of the permitted development.
  • Require the permitee to fund future mitigation development when an offer to dedicate is a permit condition (this shifts the costs of opening and maintaining an offer to dedicate).
  • Increase existing development permit fees to fund ongoing operation costs associated with easements.
  • Support legislation requiring that accessway construction be started within one year of acceptance of an offer to dedicate, and completed within three years.

Resource bonds must provide for equal access to the beach. Any resource bonds to benefit or protect the coast should require maximizing public access to the beach while ensuring fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes as a condition of any expenditures or grants, and provide funding for access to and along the beach.

Litigation is always an option. Activists should file affirmative lawsuits to enforce public access when necessary and combat litigation by wealthy enclaves and property owners who seek to cut off public access to the beach.  Foundations should fund litigation as well as non-litigation forms of advocacy to support equal access to the beach.

Thou shalt not destory the beach and public access through bulldozing, toll roads, privatization, phony signs, or otherwise.

Olmsted Vision Doubling Beach Access

The classic 1930 Olmsted report called for the doubling public beaches in Southern California: “Public control of the ocean shore, especially where there are broad and satisfactory beaches, is one of the prime needs of the Region, chiefly for the use of throngs of people coming from inlands. . . . [T]he public holdings should be very materially increased.” Click on the image to see all sizes.

102 The Olmsted Vision Doubling Public Beaches

Save Panhe and San Onofre State Beach!

Celebrating Bruce’s Beach

Southland residents celebrated the renaming of an ocean front park back to Bruce’s Beach (a/k/a Bruces’ or Bruce Beach) on March 31, 2007, in Manhattan Beach. Bruce’s Beach was one of the few beaches in Southern California in the early 1900s that was not off-limits to African Americans. The City Project has worked with Bernard Bruce, the Bruce’s grandson, to support the name change. It is important to do more than just change the name, however. Interpretive panels and public art should faithfully, completely, and accurately celebrate the proud legacy of Bruce’s Beach and African-American Los Angeles. <<more>>