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Geffen Agrees to Public Access at Beachfront Malibu Home


Published: April 17, 2005

The media mogul David Geffen has agreed to allow public access to the beach in front of his multimillion-dollar home in Malibu, Calif., ending a long-running battle with the state and nonprofit groups.

As part of the agreement, Mr. Geffen will pay the California Coastal Commission and State Coastal Conservancy $300,000 in legal costs and will give the public access to the beach from the Pacific Coast Highway, the commission said on Friday.


"I'm absolutely delighted," said Steve Hoye, the director of Access for All, a nonprofit group in Malibu that fought to open the beach to the public and will be in charge of maintaining the public access areas. "I think this sets a wonderful precedent in that someone with unlimited resources and heavy-duty law firms can't find a way around the law."

Neither Mr. Geffen's lawyer nor his spokesman, Steven Amerikaner, would comment on the settlement or the case.

In 1983, as part of an agreement to develop his beachfront compound, Mr. Geffen granted the state an easement that would have allowed the public onto the scenic Carbon Beach. By law, all California beaches are open to the public up to the mean high tide line. For the last three decades the State Coastal Commission has fought vigorously for public easements through private property. In that time, more than 1,300 deals have been reached with private property owners, but many spots remain off limits.

Because no agency or local group offered to take charge of maintenance or liability insurance for the walkway at Mr. Geffen's compound, the coastal commission did not pursue public access on his property. But in 2002, as the easement was set to expire, Mr. Hoye and his group offered to supervise the walkway with the help of a state grant. Shortly after, Mr. Geffen filed suit against the commission, the state conservancy and Access for All. His lawyers argued that the public access represented an unconstitutional taking of land, that the state had to perform an environmental review and that Access for All did not have the resources to maintain the walkway.

In agreeing to cover the coastal conservancy's $300,000 in legal fees, and giving a gate key to Mr. Hoye that would allow the public access to his beachfront, Mr. Geffen will open his once-private access to the beach from dawn to dusk.

Mr. Hoye and others said they would continue the fight for public access to every inch of California's 1,160-mile shoreline.

"It's huge," said Peter Douglas, the executive director of the coastal commission, "that a guy with his resources - who brought all those to bear to fight the public's right to go to the beach - to have him back off is a strong signal to everybody out there who is holding out and resisting or trying to prevent the public from exercising their right to go to the beach. We're going to pursue these access ways as vigorously as we can."

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.Owners of Malibu Mansions Cry, 'This Sand Is My Sand'  (August 25, 2002)  $
.National Briefing | West: California: Public Access To Beaches  (July 10, 2002) 
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