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Malibu residents: Not in my front beach

May 29, 2013|By Paul Thornton
  • Tourists access Carbon Beach in Malibu through a public accessway alongside David Geffen's home on Monday. Malibu residents say beachgoers often trash the areas in front of their homes.
Tourists access Carbon Beach in Malibu through a public accessway alongside… (Christina House / For The…)

It isn't often we hear from those who empathize with Malibu homeowners in the continuing battle for beach access in that oceanfront city. Which isn't surprising, considering this fight pits moneyed residents against less-well-off beachgoers seeking access to publicly owned land the homeowners seek to confiscate. Readers tend not to speak up for beach-dwellers who can afford to hire security guards to harass the unwashed off their sand.

So this time, some Malibu residents are speaking up for themselves.

Responding to Monday's Column One on environmental writer Jenny Price's new iPhone and iPad app that makes it easier for the public to find access paths to the Pacific (on which The Times editorialized Wednesday), most of the dozen or so readers who wrote to letters@latimes.com came down on the side of beachgoers. They repeated familiar arguments: The beachfront millionaires are not entitled to exclusive use of public land; this is another battle between haves and have-nots; and so on.

But two Malibu residents were brave enough to write in their own defense. Their points -- mainly that people produce waste, which the beaches of Malibu near these homes aren't equipped to handle -- are worth airing. Here are their letters.

Wendy Lender, who will likely have a shorter version of her letter published in Thursday's paper, says not all beaches are appropriate for public use:

"Allow me to present the other side of this issue.

"My parents have had a home on the beach in Malibu since the 1950s. There is a public access path nearby that gets plenty of use throughout the year. Unlike the many public beaches with well-maintained facilities, at this location, there are no bathrooms or garbage cans, and there is no lifeguard on duty.

"On several occasions, I have personally witnessed people urinating and defecating under my parents' home. People come up through the side gate and use the hose. And on a couple of occasions, we have had people come up to the house needing first aid for severe cuts from having fallen on the rocks. Because there are spaces available, people desperate to park often block my parents' garage or front gate. Garbage is often left on the beach to wash out to sea unless we pick it up. On any given day, I will pick up at least 50 cigarette butts and numerous empty soda and beer cans. Diapers are also frequently left behind.

"When people plan a day at the beach, does it not occur to them that the beach is not their toilet or trash can? Unless you have an amazing ability not to have normal bodily functions, please head to a public beach that is capable of handling your mess."

Colin Dangaard decries the selective enforcement of litter laws:

"I've seen local law enforcement step over heaps of trash on their way to ticket topless beachgoers. This is what really ticked me off as I ran daily on Zuma Beach for 15 years, jogging there from my house nearby. I understand how Malibu homeowners feel, as they try to keep the public from the sand in front of their expensive homes. 

"The public needs trash bins and washrooms -- and it needs to be urged to use them.

"When I challenged people leaving trash on 'my' beach, I was invariably threatened and my authority was questioned. The reaction was always along the lines of, 'That's why they have beach sweepers, stupid!'

"When I questioned law enforcement about why they didn't write tickets for trash and instead concentrated on exposed breasts, their reply often went like this: 'Indecent exposure is unlawful. And besides, it's easier to prove who owns the breasts than who owns the trash.' "

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