Guide to Malibu's Hidden Beaches--Pt. 3

BigRockBeach.JPGEver wondered what lies behind that wall of houses on the PCH between Topanga and the Malibu Country Mart? Would you like to see what the view looks like on the other side?

Herewith Part 3 of the Malibu Beaches Owners Manual, for public owners who want to know how to find and use the 20 miles of public beaches (out of 27) that are lined with private development. This third installment covers the beaches east of the Malibu pier. Parts 1 and 2 covered the beaches to the west.

Happily, these beaches aren't nearly as sign-crazy as in the western half. Sadly, the access to them is minimal. The nearly six miles of beaches have three--count 'em, three--officially open accessways. Three. And why bother with all those inaccurate "private beach" signs when the public can't get there?

Remember: all California beaches are public below the mean high tide line (working definition: the wet sand). Like all Malibu beaches, these beaches also have abundant public easements on the dry sand. Check the easement maps on the Coastal Commission site (go to p. 23 of the PDF): they're a bit hard to read, but you can just call the good folks there at 805-585-1800.

Also, these eastern beaches are narrow, and are often covered at high tide--so check the tide charts in the L.A. Times (plug in 90265 for zip code) or at a tide-prediction website to make sure you haven't planned your walk too close to high tide.

Three accessways--which is all the more aggravating since this stretch includes two unopened accessways that are tied up in lawsuits and four fenced-off public properties along the PCH. And, rather incomprehensibly, one official accessway that's been closed for repairs for six years.

But know what's a good place to go when you get aggravated? Where you can forget about all these cares and woes and all those lawsuits? Where you can enjoy the fresh air and watch the sunset?

The Beach. Here's how to do it, from west to east:

CARBON BEACH--Zonker Harris Accessway--betw. 22706-22664 PCH

Carbon Beach, aka Billionaires Beach, is one of the widest and nicest of the eastern beaches. It's still far from a public-access paradise, but with the opening of the Geffen accessway (below), it has two access paths. The county Zonker Harris stairway has been open since 1981.

How to operate: Ignore the few "private beach" signs--on the adjacent property to the east, for example, which has a public easement.

Public easements--Upcoast:
1st property (old Windsail restaurant)--50 ft from mean high tide line (MHTL)

Public easements--Downcoast:
1st property (big white)--to bldg
3rd property (red roofs)--25 ft from MHTL--to 5 ft from bldg
4th property (white)--25 ft from MHTL--to 10 ft from bldg
5th property (white w/brn deck)--25 ft from MHTL--to 10 ft from bldg
6th property (white U w/pool)--to bldg

CARBON BEACH--new accessway--betw. 22140-22126 PCH

The world-renowned walkway next to David Geffen's house. Why not call it the Hooray for Geffen Accessway, since it's made Carbon Beach far more accessible--and the 22-year battle and new 24-hour video surveillance notwithstanding, the public now uses this walkway with nary an incident. Maintained by the indomitable nonprofit Access For All.

How to operate: Carbon Beach teems with public easements--on the DG property, but there are lots and lots and lots more (thanks to the Coastal Commission and Access For All)--and why should DG have the public sunbathers all to himself?

Public easements--DG property:
You can plant a towel and umbrella anywhere up to 10 ft. from the compound. See the maps in the walkway.

Public easements--Upcoast:
7th house (white w/dk brn roof)--25 ft from MHTL
9th house (white w/lt gray roof)--25 ft from MHTL
10th house (white/brn w/gray roofs)--10 ft from house

Public easements--Downcoast:
1st house (red corrugated roof)--25 ft from MHTL
2nd house--to deck
3rd house (blue roof)--to deck
7th house (gray roofs, white chimney)--25 ft from MHTL
10th house (reddish 1st story, white 2nd)--10 ft from house
11th house (white)--25 ft from MHTL
12th house (white w/dk gray roof)--25 ft from MHTL
13th house (white w/blue roof)--25 ft from MHTL
14th house (big yellow)--25 ft from MHTL

CARBON BEACH--Advanced features

Want to visit your Carbon Beach accessway that's stalled in litigation? It's easy to find with a lovely stroll along the beach--just 13 houses downcoast from Zonker Harris and 31 houses (or compounds) upcoast from Hooray for DG. Look for the big white several-story house with the tennis court on the east side. Your accessway is on the east edge: well, it has a wall in it right now, but one would hope that the victory at DG means that all the money on the continent won't stall the opening of new entrances for too long.

In the meantime, enjoy the public easements on this stretch:

Public easement--white house (and tennis court)--to seawall

Public easement--Upcoast:
1st house--to seawall

Public easements--Downcoast:
1st house (lawsuit source)--25 ft. from MHTL
3rd house--to seawall


Zip. Nada. (Though you can make a roadside visit to the big Coastal Conservancy lot betw. 21746-21660 PCH, which is now free of lawsuits and should open in the near future.)

LAS FLORES BEACH--a sort-of accessway--betw. 20516-20466 PCH

A sweet little Caltrans-owned empty lot, which the Coastal Commission would like to see un-fenced and developed for public access. Still, the gate (east end) is unlocked, so check it out if you like. The neighbors have got boats and chairs in there, and the rest of the public should use it freely as well.

BIG ROCK BEACH--the backward-progress accessway (aka the fix-it-already accessway)--betw. Moonshadows-20340 PCH

This official county accessway has been closed off for repairs. For six years. The county keeps declining to fix it despite the state's offers of help.

It's inexcusable. And can you imagine the frustration of anyone who lives across the street? The closest accessways to a beach they can see out their windows are 1/2 mile downcoast and 2+ miles upcoast.

BIG ROCK BEACH--big wide accessway--betw. 20000-19958 PCH

A great wide staircase. This is a pretty stretch of beach, with big rocks, yes, in the tide and an especially scenic view upcoast.

How to operate: The "private property above mean high tide line" county sign at the entrance is inaccurate since there are plenty of public easements here--starting with the adjacent properties on both sides of the accessway.

Parking: The ocean side of the PCH is overrun with illegal "no parking" signs, that residents have posted in the public right of way. The Coastal Commission has asked Caltrans to have them removed. In the meantime, you still might get towed, so it's best to park in the few no-sign gaps or on the other side of the PCH.


If you're driving east on the PCH to get home, feel free to pay your respects to your other unopened accessway that's under litigation, at 19016 PCH. I'm told that the locals have a way of getting to this Las Tunas stretch, that involves a culvert, a rickety ladder, and wading through sludge--access deprivation leads to desperate acts--but best to wait until this accessway opens, which we trust and hope will be soon.

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