VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — The California Coastal Commission has imposed a $4.2 million fine on owners of an expensive oceanfront rental on the Malibu coast for failing to remove a gate, fence, stairway and deck that block public access to the beach.
It is the first time the commission has imposed fines on property owners for blocking beach access.
The fine levied Thursday follows a nine-year battle over the blocked public easement, the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/2htpMdg) reported.
"This represents an attitude we often see in Malibu — that the shore is our private backyard," said Coastal Commissioner Mark Vargas.
The owners, Dr. Warren Lent and his wife, Henny, contended they didn't install the obstructions and have been trying in good faith to resolve the situation inherited from a previous owner.
The state agency only received the authority to levy fines in 2014. Typically, that authority has acted as a deterrent and helped the commission resolve conflicts over beach access without the need of imposing a financial penalty.
On Thursday, the agency also reached an amicable settlement with owners of the Malibu Beach Inn over beach-access stairways that were never built. Under that agreement, owners Simon and Daniel Mani will build stairways, install a crosswalk and pay fines and money to a local conservation agency.
The moves will help provide public access to two Malibu beaches. In Malibu, many public easements remain closed, with residents hiring security guards, putting up fake no-parking signs and blocking access ways.
Agency officials said the Lents bought their house in 2002 and have refused to make fixes to the property to facilitate beach access. Instead, agency officials said the couple has made money by renting the house out for about $1,000 a night and advertising on real estate websites that it has access to a private beach.
Alan Block, the Lents' attorney, said fines were not appropriate because the couple inherited the violations.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/