California Coastal Commission penalizes Malibu homeowners for obscuring access to ‘hidden’ beach…
The public will have better access to a beach in Southern California that’s noted for secrecy following a 40-year effort from state agencies to untangle a labyrinthine legal history created by wealthy homeowners to block beach access.
The California Coastal Commission and California State Coastal Conservancy collaborated to open access to Escondido Beach in Malibu — coincidentally Spanish for “hidden” beach. The beach is located in a highly popular area near the famous Paradise Cove and Point Dume.
On Wednesday, the commission approved an agreement with the two current homeowners that will ultimately force them to build both a public access way to the beach and a parking lot, estimated to cost several million dollars, plus pay a fine for the violations.
The neighboring properties are currently owned by Frank Mancuso, a former film studio executive for Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the heirs of Don Wildman, who founded the now-defunct chain Bally Total Fitness. Wildman died in 2018, and the property passed to his family.
Reaching Escondido Beach has historically been difficult, after its former homeowners put in place obscured access ways, starting in the 1980s.
Legal action ensued for decades. As outlined in a staff report from the commission, the previous landowners — Marilyn and Roger Wolk and Ken and Jeannette Chiate — were first cited after wrongly recording the location of the easement with the commission more than 40 years ago.
The report describes various violations over the years, including performing “an unpermitted lot line adjustment,” as well as installing a metal fence and paving driveways over the easement to keep beach access obscured.
For decades, the conservancy tried to open the public access easements. According to the report, both Mancuso and Wildman sued the conservancy under separate lawsuits in the late 1990s into the 2000s.
To access Escondido Beach, the public had to either pay an entrance fee to park at Paradise Cove a quarter-mile away or go through the restaurant Geoffrey’s a half-mile away.
The Los Angeles Times reported that attorneys for both current owners said their clients “inherited” the violations and that they were not disclosed to them when the properties were purchased.
The commission’s resolution is split between the current homeowners; Mancuso is to remove the driveway and pay a $600,000 fine, while the Wildmans are to build a path to the beach, parking lot and other adjustments at an estimated $3 million. [SFGAte]
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