California Says You Should Be Able To Go To The Beach At 3 A.M., Despite L.A.'s Curfew
You know what kids go to the beach at night to do? Bad things. Trust us, we've been there.
With that in mind cities like L.A. and Huntington Beach have curfews that outlaw being on beaches during certain hours (for L.A.'s sand it's midnight to 5 a.m.).
But the California Coastal Commission, in letters to City Hall, says L.A. can't do that without its permission. The commission has jurisdiction over the one mile strip of land along California's coast. It can and has told cities what they can and can't do in their beach communities, including what kind of parking restrictions they can impose.
L.A. has had its curfew for about 30 years. For one thing it helps the LAPD patrol places like Venice during those hours. Nobody's supposed to be on the beach, so cops can focus on better things -- and when someone is on the beach they're often stopped and checked out.
In a statement Friday, Westside city Councilman Bill Rosendahl decried the commission's recent stance on beach curfews as well as its restrictions on beach-community parking limits:
"The Coastal Commission is exceeding and abusing its authority, and acting shamefully," he said.
The commission can still let L.A. have its curfew, however. It's worked out deals that allow other cities to limit when and how people can dip their toes in the sand. It's just that they want the city to bow down and make a deal.
We'll be watching.
Commission executive director Peter Douglas got on the phone with the Weekly to explain the body's stance.
He says he sent a letter to the city recently informing it that it can't close off all its beaches without the state's permission after the commission received several complaints from residents who wanted to get wet after-hours, so to speak.
The city responded with a letter saying the state doesn't have a right to tell L.A. what to do in this matter.
Douglas wrote back citing the California Coastal Act of 1976.
"To close the beach and impose a curfew restricting public access to state waters requires a coastal permit," Douglas says. "This is one of the reasons the Coastal Act came into being -- to protect public access."
He says that he was scheduled to speak with folks at the City Attorney's office late Friday so the parties could meet up in the following weeks and hopefully work out a compromise of the kind that he says has worked in Long Beach, Coronado and Laguna Beach.
After those cities imposed their own broad curfews, he says, the commission worked with them to limit the restrictions to specific problem areas. Long Beach, for example, had crime problems at some beach parking lots. The commission let the city keep those areas closed, but had it reopen the rest of is coastline to overnight access.
He's hopeful L.A. and state can work it out. Douglas said he wanted to avoid another lawsuit. (L.A. is suing the commission over its denial of overnight permit-parking zones for Venice residents).
"You can't just paint with a broad brush," he said. "The public has a constitutional right to access. There are a lot of people who go for walks, who go fishing late at night."