Gate Still Closed At Privates Beach, Despite Coastal Commission Order

August 23, 2016 6:17 PM By Len Ramirez

Filed Under: California Coastal Commission, Gate, Privates Beach, Santa Cruz

SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) “” The battle over the fence around Privates Beach near Santa Cruz that is keeping the public out is heating up.

Norman Sears from Marin was first turned away at the gate to Privates Beach because he didn’t want to pay to get in.

“I just stopped to look at the beach and was told I was not allowed to look at the beach so I just go a little further down, said Sears. I don’t think it’s legal.”

The fee to use the beach is $5 per day with annual passes costing $100 a year.

But once KPIX 5’s camera crew started interviewing the gatekeeper, he set aside the fee for Sears.

Sears is one of the few to challenge the Opal Cliffs Recreation District over free access to the beach.

In June, The California Coastal Commission ordered Opal Cliffs to take the gate down and threatened to fine the district $11,000 a day.

But several meetings and letters later, it’s still here. And no fines have been levied.

Gatekeeper Cooper Ashworth said most people don’t mind paying the five dollars to enter.

Opal cliffs has been operating the gate since the 1940s. They say the fees pay for the gatekeepers, maintenance of a small park and a wood stairway to the beach.

But the Commission says it goes against the California Coastal Act, which seeks free public access to all beaches.

No one from the Coastal Commission was available on camera, but a source inside the agency said Opal Cliffs was offered a compromise to keep the gates locked overnight for security purposes, but have them free and open during the day.

That proposal went nowhere and according to the source, the situation is now described as a “standoff.”

Opal Cliffs was also not available for comment, but Santa Cruz surfer Michael Sobota said there’s a problem with the compromise offer.

“Keeping the gate locked at night is a good thing. Keeping it open during the day? I don’t have a problem with that,” said Sobota. “But if you take away the resources that fund the place, it’s not going to be access for anybody.”

For Norman Sears he decided to move on after a brief look. But he said hed like to see the situation resolved

“Hopefully this public land will be open to the public,” said Sears.