Waterfronts represent some of Southern California’s most valuable real estate and most sought-after recreation destinations. Despite Los Angeles County’s reputation for large public beaches, privatization and the discouragement of public use came to characterize Malibu’s Broad Beach by the end of the twentieth century. In the same era, erosion reshaped the boundary between public and private property on the beach. Residents called for permanent structures to stabilize the coast. Public beach activists rejected homeowners’ claims that beach armoring was in the public’s interest. Activists demanded state authorities expand access opportunities and protect public recreation instead of protecting beachfront mansions. As coastal erosion altered the parameters of public access, environmental change raised the stakes regarding state and federal authorities’ responsibilities to maintain beaches. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the longstanding challenge to public access in this exclusive Malibu enclave collided with the unfolding climate crisis, highlighting the entwined nature of environmental risk and real estate development on the beach.

You do not currently have access to this content.