Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Spring 2019, Vol. 28, No. 1

Shifting Sands: Appreciating Nuance with Respect to Implementing the Coastal Act’s Mandate for Public Beach Access

by Marisa Choy* and Mark Massara**

I. INTRODUCTION

In October 2018, coastal access advocates celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in Martins Beach 1 LLC et al. vs Surfrider Foundation ("Martins Beach").1 An eight-year legal drama, Martins Beach featured San Francisco Bay Area surfers opposite a Silicon Valley billionaire, and focused national attention on key legal issues involving the delicate balance between private property rights and the mandate of the California Coastal Act to maximize public access to the coast.2

Under the 1976 California Coastal Act (the "Coastal Act") and the California Constitution, the public has the right to access to all lands seaward of the mean high tide line.3 In this article, we use Martins Beach as a case study to examine several other high profile ongoing controversies over public access along the California coast, including Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes (Los Angeles County), Opal Cliffs (Santa Cruz County), and Hollister Ranch on the Central Coast (Santa Barbara County).

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