Are California's beaches gentrified?

High overnight costs and wealthy landowners illegally blocking access to the beach are a cause for concern. (Feb. 23, 2017)

Public access to California's coastal areas, including beaches, are a problem.

Between overnight costs and wealthy landowners illegally blocking access, we wondered if this translated into a gentrification of sorts.

"The beach doesn't belong to any individual person, the California Constitution protects it," Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) said. "I think there's absolutely been a gentrification of our coastal communities, and you can see it very directly." 

Gonzalez Fletcher introduced a bill, AB 250, which, if passed, would require the state's Coastal Conservancy to come up with a program for low-cost accommodations along the coast. 

A January 2017 University of California, Los Angeles study, which surveyed voters statewide, found that Central Valley voters, African-Americans and people who make less than $40,000 a year are less likely to visit the coast. 

Jon Christensen, the study's author, said economics are at play. 

"There's definitely been a loss of lower-cost places to stay at the same time that staying on the coast is getting more expensive," he said. 

The study notes that, on average, Californians are willing to pay around $117 a night for overnight coastal accommodations.

But that target nightly rate is difficult to reach. 

Sam Schuchat, Executive Director of the state's Coastal Conservancy, said the biggest obstacle is money -- or lack thereof. 

And as for people blocking access to the beach, the state's Coastal Commission was only recently given authority to fine homeowners, up to $11,250 per day, for claiming the beach as their own.

In 2016, 88 cases were reported to the commission that allegedly involved public access to coastal areas. Of the 88, 42 have been investigated and determined to be active violations so far. Most took place in the Central Coast District, primarily Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo.

Perhaps the most notable violation case is in Malibu. The commission is currently in litigation over a $4.2 million fine against two Malibu property owners for blocking access to the beach

Meanwhile, Gonzalez Fletcher's legislation may be heard in committee March 2. 

She reflected on the beach being apart of her upbringing as a Latina in Oceanside and her passion for the environment. 

"I had exposure to it, so it's really important, I think, that all Californians, we all pay taxes, we all are part of the state, that we have that same access to the beach," she said. 

Copyright 2017 KXTV


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