Battle Over Dana Point’s Strands Beach Nears a Public Victory

The long-simmering legal battle between the City of Dana Point, the California Coastal Commission and the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation over public access to Strands Beach is apparently coming to an end.

And the winner is … the public.

For a change.

Because Headlands Reserve LLC’s upscale residential community looms over Strands Beach, residents there and the private developer got the city six years ago to pass an ordinance that imposed a curfew on the public beach and restricted free access with a locked gate.

The Coastal Commission objected.

Surfrider sued.

Appellate and Supreme courts sided with public access.

And so, the city has finally signed a settlement agreement to lift the restrictive beach access hours and gated access-ways at Strands Beach.

However, the Coastal Commission must still approve the pact at its meeting this month, the panel’s acting director Jack Ainsworth must sign it and the City of Dana Point must then dismiss all litigation with Surfrider and the Coastal Commission.

Surfrider is optimistic this will all happen.

“This settlement agreement marks a significant victory for the public as beachgoers in South Orange County,” says Angela Howe, Surfrider’s legal director, in a statement. “We are glad to see the fruit of six years of labor, as Surfrider has fought to keep this access open and the city accountable. We will support this settlement agreement for signature at the April Coastal Commission hearing and, if passed, consider it a victory for our long-fought battle for beach access at Dana Point Strands Beach.”

“It’s great to put this issue to bed once and for all,” adds Rick Erkeneff, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation South Orange County Chapter, “and the public gets what it deserves–access to the beautiful Strands Beach.”

The agreement also has the city performing $300,000 worth of mitigation “to settle the years of Coastal Act violations that this beach access issue has implicated,” according to Surfrider.

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