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Coastal Commission Challenge to Beach Curfew Highlights Santa Monica’s Accessible Shores

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
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Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

April 18, 2014 -- The California Coastal Commission has reopened a long-standing fight with Venice Beach, Santa Monica’s neighbor to the south, over the City of L.A.’s beach curfew.

But the fight between the State agency that governs California’s coastline and LA over whether a city can enforce blanket rules that restrict general access to the beach during certain times, is unlikely to affect Santa Monica, where the beaches are accessible to the public 24 hours a day.

“We’ve also spoken with the City of Santa Monica,” said Andrew Willis, the Coastal Commission enforcement analyst who recently petitioned Los Angeles’ Park and Recreation Department to ease the City’s prohibition against using the beach between midnight and 5 a.m.

Willis letter to the City of Los Angeles called for allowing 24-hour access to the beach unless “credible evidence” of a public safety problem could be produced.

While Santa Monica does have some restrictions, none conflict with the Coastal Commission’s goal of maximizing access to the beach.

“There’s no blanket closure of the beach like there is in the City of Los Angeles,” Willis said. “We want to make sure that people can get down to State waters.”

Santa Monica’s municipal code prevents people from pitching tents or “other temporary housing or shelter which is closed or capable of being closed more than fifty percent from the ground up.”

That essentially means no camping, said Santa Monica Police Department Spokesperson Sgt. Jay Moroso.

There is a County ordinance, however, that states that “a person shall not loiter on any beach at any time between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m.”

But that’s not something that’s really enforced on Santa Monica beaches, officials said.

“I am unclear as to the County ordinance,” said Santa Monica Police Officer Robert Martinez, who is part of the department’s Homeless Liaison Program.

“I have never used it and I would get the opinion of the City Attorney first,” he said.

Willis believes that “loitering” specifically implies some sort of “nefarious intent.

“I don’t think it would apply to legitimate beach use,” he said.
And, based on the Commission’s conversations with County staff, neither does the County, he said.

Willis said that the Commission is expecting a response from the City of L.A. later this month, but that access to beaches is a general concern for the Commission.

“It really is a State-wide issue,” he said. “We have to look at each of these instances based on location.”

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