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FREE THE BEACH! PUBLIC ACCESS, EQUAL JUSTICE AND THE CALIFORNIA COAST

NEWSLETTER SPRING 2005

The California beach is the latest front in the struggle for equal justice. Wealthy beachfront enclaves like Malibu along California’s coast seek to cut off the right of the people to reach the beach. Property owners in Broad Beach in Malibu took the utterly astonishing step of bringing in heavy equipment to scoop up tons of public beach and pile it onto their property in early June 2005. For years before that, phony “private beach” signs have been posted on Broad Beach, and private security guards on all-terrain vehicles have harassed the public on public beaches. The California Coastal Commission has ordered property owners to stop the bulldozing, which cuts off public access. David Geffen and the City of Malibu filed suit to cut off public access to the beach several years ago. The pathway to the beach next to his house was finally opened in May 2005 after Geffen dropped his complaint, which had been dismissed six times. The City of Malibu dropped out earlier. While eighty percent of the 34 million people of California live within an hour of the coast, low-income communities of color are disproportionately denied the benefits of access to the beach.

The City Project is spearheading a strategic campaign to preserve public access to the beach, and to prevent any further destruction of the beach.

Our Policy Report Free the Beach! is the most comprehensive published account of coastal access issues in California. A chapter featuring our work on beach access, We Shall Be Moved: Community Activism As a Tool for Reversing the Rollback, is forthcoming in a book on the civil rights movement edited by Denise C. Morgan et al., Awakening from the Dream: Pursuing Civil Rights in a Conservative Era (forthcoming 2005). 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.