Privates beach to open gate to daily visitors
By Kurtis Alexander – Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted: 01/06/2009 01:30:24 AM PST

A small, gated beach that relatively few know about and even fewer have access to may soon open its gate to daily visitors.

At the prodding of the California Coastal Commission, the neighborhood group that manages the aptly-named Privates beach likely will begin offering a daily gate pass to visitors for $5.

The beach, popular with local surfers and accessed through a tiny park between Pleasure Point and Capitola, is currently reserved for those who pay an annual $100 fee, something the Coastal Commission has called “exclusionary.”

David King, general manager of the Opal Cliffs Recreation District that has long maintained Privates with its tradition of purchasing annual keys from a local surf shop, says he’s OK with the change.

“The more in the community we can get involved in the park, the better off we’ll be in the future,” he said.

The beach’s generally quiet affairs became the interest of the powerful Coastal Commission when state regulators discovered three years ago that the iron fence in front of Privates had been raised to 9 feet and topped with razor wire.

The changes were not legal under the beach’s 1981 permit.

While Privates is managed under a unique arrangement in which a special district, funded by neighborhood property taxes and beach dues, maintains the quarter-acre park and adjacent stairwell to the beach, the area is subject to the terms of the Coastal Commission.

The district, after learning its new
fence did not have the commission’s blessing, applied to amend its permit accordingly, a request that will be heard before the Coastal Commission on Wednesday. The district is also seeking approval for other landscaping improvements, including new irrigation, a concrete pathway and a shower.

Dan Carl, manager of the local Coastal Commission office, says his staff is recommending the board approve the district’s changes, under the condition that the district open the beach to more people by offering a day pass.

“Hopefully, this will allow for the folks who come upon the access-way and don’t want to pay the $100 for the opportunity to get in,” Carl said.

Daily admission likely would be charged at nearby Freeline Design Surf Shop, where some 600 annual passes are now purchased, and at Privates when an attendant is working. Annual key cards still will be available.

He said the commission would normally recommend removing any gate or fence that limits access to the beach, but said the state is required to honor the terms of the district’s 1981 permit.

Coastal Commission staff is also recommending that uniformed security be abolished at Privates. The district had briefly hired First Guard security employees to keep people from climbing the fence and avoiding admission fees, which the commission said had a “chilling effect.”

King, who has long surfed at Privates, says it’s never been the district’s intent to limit visitors. He says the reason for the fence, and the security, is to make sure people pay the fee, which funds upkeep of the area.

“The beach is not run by parks and rec or anyone else, so the community has to do it,” King said. “And we’re all volunteers. The only way we can keep our head above ground is to charge a fee.”

Contact Kurtis Alexander at 706-3267 or

Coastal Commission moves

The state Coastal Commission will meet 10 a.m. Wednesday in Oceanside. In addition to the proposed changes at Privates beach, the commission will hear two other issues of local interest.
n A handful of local residents are appealing the county’s decision to restrict recreational vehicle parking on East Cliff Drive between Fifth and Seventh avenues. The appeal claims restrictions unfairly target RV users and disabled persons who use RVs.
n UC Santa Cruz is seeking approval for a plan to build a scaled-back Marine Science Campus at Terrace Point in Santa Cruz. The commission has signaled it will approve the plan now that university officials have downsized the original blueprint.
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