Beach Curfew Violates Law

By John Davis

The Beachhead has reported on an ordinance of the City of Los Angeles that violates the California Constitution and the California Coastal Act. Former Executive Director Peter Douglas of the Coastal Commission agreed with the public that the City curfew has violated the law from the beginning. He stated that the City curfew was “unenforceable.”

Yet the City continues to arrest people to prevent them from legally using the public trust lands whenever they like, night or day. Some people work in the day so the only time they can enjoy the beach is at night. The same is true of fishermen when the bite is on at night or people who like to view the full moon in all its splendor as it illuminates the shining night sea.

But the L.A. City Council, particularly Councilperson Bill Rosendahl of CD 11, implies that there are Boogie Men who may roam the beach after sunset, creating such wild mischief that the public must be kept away. The City implies it cannot afford to provide a police patrol at night, even though untold millions of tax revenue is generated by Venice annually.

What is really happening is that Councilman Rosendahl is riding point for his posse so those who can afford beachfront real estate will enjoy higher property values.

Removing the public from the beaches they own provides exclusivity to certain property owners. If you owned a nice beachfront home in Venice, like former Congressperson Jane Harman does, would you prefer to see poor people on your beach after sunset? Of course not, they would ruin the view, and God forbid, reduce the value of the real estate. What better way to stop this than to imprison them! Bill is their man. Atop his high horse, he bugles the cry to sweep up the homeless from their home and to cleanse the beach. But he not only wants to remove the homeless. He wants all of us to get off the beach by sundown, or else his dark posse will ride down and punish you.

But the story goes ever further. Dockweiler State Park has three sections. One is south of the Marina Del Rey main channel, the other is just north, 11 acres (Least Tern Reserve) and most importantly, three acres where the Venice Pavilion once stood.

The City entered into an agreement with the State Department of Parks and Recreation in 1943 to lease and operate Dockweiler State Park. That agreement ended in 1998.

Currently, the City has no legal authority over the Park nor does the County, which provided maintenance and lifeguard services to the City while the lease was current. This places major liabilities on the State Park System, which is now responsible for any injuries that occur on State Park lands. The City no longer holds the State harmless and indemnifies it, (the State is now responsible for loss not the City). I met with and informed the Superintendent of the State Park, Craig Sap, of this matter on June 13.

At no time, even when the City leased the State Park, did it ever have the authority to impose a curfew on the public parklands. The Regulations that govern the State Parks system only allow the Executive Director, Ruth Coleman, to impose a temporary curfew, and only for minors.

The State Parks Commission needs to consider this matter as soon as possible to make the City straighten up and fly right.

Andrew Willis, enforcement officer of the Coastal Commission, said the Commission is discussing the matter with the City and is encouraged the City will soon apply for a Coastal Development Permit. However, when I spoke to Rosendahl’s trusty sidekick, Arturo Pina, he informed me the City had not yet applied. How many years does it take to fill out an application?

Andrew Willlis has said the same thing for years, but with no visible result. The Commission has failed to place this on its agenda as a violation of the Coastal Act.

Alex Halprin, Senior Staff Legal Counsel, sent the last formal letter to the Commission on February 3, 2011 reiterating Peter Douglas, “Because no such authorization has been granted, it is the position of the Commission’s Legal Division that the Beach Curfew is currently of no legal force or effect.”

Willis indicated that the Commission might be sued if it attempts to enforce the Coastal Act. I responded the Commission should welcome such a suit because a legal motion for dismissal or summary judgment would easily defeat it. I said the public would be enraged if the City fought to keep the people off of their beaches. The City would then back down. Willis would not even acknowledge this as a possibility, but focused only on not bringing the violation before the public Commission for enforcement.

Perhaps he and the Commission are in fear of the L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who stated on October 1, 2010 that the City needs no permit from the Coastal Commission, which is attempting to exercise the powers of a “super-legislature or court with power to effectively veto or nullify the laws of Charter Cities….Indeed, your interpretation of the Coastal Act is contrary to separation of powers defined by the Constitution of the State of California… A development in the Coastal Act always refers to physical structures and things: buildings, walls, fences, etc.” (Note: The Coastal Act also defines development as change in access according to the Coastal Act).

Trutanich went on to state that “the Commission is not a Court….We trust the concept of the democratic process is not completely lost on the Commission and its Staff…The Commission obviously intends its investigation, (into the illegal curfew), to harass the City…The ongoing investigation ….represents retaliation against the City.”

Trutanich fails to even address the issue of constitutional access to public trust lands because there is no logic in which the City can override the Constitution of the State.

As for the Coastal Commission, they have known about the violation since 2008. The Commission staff has hidden well over 1,000 other known violations from the public by failing to place them as enforcement matters before the Commission. This allows the staff, behind closed doors, to decided who can violate the Coastal Act and who they will let get away with the crime. It is the Commission at a public meeting that is to decide, not staff.

My opinion is that the Commission is not afraid of the City, but is working with it behind closed doors and with no written record to allow the violations to continue without intervention.

The non-enforcement of the Coastal Act further encourages the City’s ongoing violation and is green lighting to all other coastal communities up and down the coast that they too can remove the public in order to prop up real estate values for certain financially privileged individuals.