Key Facts: The
Struggle for Public Access
at 415 PCH
- At stake is our ability to use prime public property
and the beach.
The lawsuit attempts undermine the will of the community and the intention
of elected officials. They appear to want to keep the Gold Coast a de facto private beach.
- Denying public facilities keeps the public off the
beach. Private property interests have
developed a range of methods to discourage public use of coastal resources
including eliminating, restricting or blocking public beach facilities
such as parking spaces and toilets. Or in this case, a beach club.
- This is the only Santa Monica-area beach dominated by
residents and private club members. The Gold Coast beach has the lowest public usage in Santa Monica. Currently,
nearly all the beach-goers are the local residents or private beach club
- Neighbors have fought public access before – the bike
path! Less than twenty years ago the same
property association tried to block the construction of the bike path on
the exact same stretch of beach. They cited similar noise and safety and
security concerns. Today the bike path is a popular community resource; it
is hard to imagine the beach devoid of such a valued feature.
- Why do neighbors find private beach clubs acceptable,
but not a public club? There are two exclusive clubs within a half-mile of the proposed
facility; many neighbors are members of these clubs. The Palisades Beach
Property Owners Association is suing to prevent, among other things, food
service at the public facility when the private facilities have full
- The private clubs are larger than the proposed club,
yet do not generate complaints. They have none of the many operating restrictions
already conceded by the city in negotiations with the plaintiffs. They
regularly stage events much larger and later than those allowed for the
public facility. Moreover, in the last five years the private beach clubs
have only generated two noise-related complaints. Even nearby houses have
been the subject of more complaints.
Context and Analysis of the Lawsuit
The following are direct quotes from
the legal advisor for Friends of 415 PCH, Phil Hess, a land-use
- The plaintiffs are taking a
public interest law and using it to build a wall across the beach. They
are most unlikely guardians of the public interest.
- The suit is far more procedural
than substantive. They are throwing up a whole cloud of technical issues,
hoping that one of those will trip up the project.
- This is a classic case of
environmental laws which were designed to protect the public interest
being hijacked by private parties for their own personal benefit.
- The lawsuit stands the
California Environmental Quality Act on its head. CEQA is intended to
protect the public from undisclosed impacts of private development. Yet
here you have private interests claiming the right to protect the public
from a project that, in fact, enhances the public’s right to beach access.
- CEQA is a disclosure statute only.
It is complied with once all the potential impacts are disclosed. Once
they have all the information, the elected officials and, ultimately, the
public decide whether or not a project should commence.
Key Facts: The Proposed 415
Public Beach Club
- The proposal has nearly unanimous local support and
broad regional support. Leaders from political,
community, recreation, education, historic preservation and environmental groups
are hailing the project as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
- A beach club is not a new use for the site. The city’s intention to
re-open the facility for public use has been clear for more than a decade.
From the 1960s to 1990s, it was the private Sand and Sea Club. The public
club calls for far less intensive use than the previous club.
- Private funds to pay for world-class facility. The facility would be built
using $28 million in funds provided by the Annenberg Foundation, which is
expected to cover construction costs. Amenities at the facility would
rival, and in many cases, surpass those at nearby private beach clubs.
- The club would be the only such facility in the nation. There are no other destination
beach clubs owned by, and open to, the general public. Features of the
- A renovated swimming pool
(with restored historic tiles)
- A full restoration of the
historic North House, open to public tours
- Changing and locker rooms
- A 72-person event room and
meeting rooms for public use
- A patio terrace and viewing
and sun deck with lounge chairs
- A kids play area on the sand
as well as a water play area
- A snack bar and picnic tables
- Volleyball and paddle tennis
- William Randolph Hearst built
the original estate with the help of designer Julia Morgan, who had
recently completed Hearst
was completed in 1929. The
property became popularly known as the Marion Davies Estate, after the
newspaper tycoon’s silent movie star mistress.
- In an era when that stretch of Santa Monica coastline was dubbed the Gold Coast
because of its wealthy residents and extravagant galas, Davies hosted some
most lavish parties at the estate
- The property changed hands
several times. It has been a hotel and home to two different beach clubs
before becoming state property. All of the buildings on the property were
“red-tagged” as a result of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
- The pool and North House –
which was originally a guest house – are the only two structures remaining
from the Hearst / Davies era. Both
have historic tiles that will be restored as part of the proposed