100 Percent Public: App Shows How to Access All of Malibu's Beaches

Does this look like a private beach? Only some of it is. | Photo: Courtesy Escape Apps.

Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, you might think there are only a handful of beaches to choose from. That's an easy conclusion to arrive at, considering all the pricey real estate lining the coast, sometimes accompanied with official looking signs "prohibiting" beach access. But don't let all of that fool you. California's coast is public, and Malibu is no exception.

Take the Malibu coast as a whole and you've got about 27 miles. Seven are easily accessed via the traditional beaches flocked to by the summertime crowds: Leo Carillo, Zuma, Surfrider, and so on. The remaining 20 are all lined by private development, making access no easy feat. But all of that is going to change.

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One of these signs is real, the other is fake and trying to intimidate potential beach users. | Photo: Courtesy Escape Apps

Starting in June, an app called Our Malibu Beaches will beam down from the cellurar gods into phones everywhere and all shall be answered (well, to start, iPhones. Today, a Kickstarter launches to help fund the Android version to be hopefully out by July. And if extra funds are raised, it will go toward free downloads all summer long). Created by Jenny Price with Escape Apps, the mobile guide maps all of the beaches, and more importantly, how and where to access them.

"That's probably the biggest secret in the app," says Price of the nuanced detail one must be armed with in order to navigate public easements, which she describes as "a piece of private land given over to public use," or better said: "[W]here all of us can hang out."

Price is an expert when it comes to Malibu beaches. She first came upon the access issue years ago when writing about it for L.A. Weekly, a perfect outlet for her curiosity and "enduring interest" in public space, characteristics she takes to a lot of her work like the co-founding the L.A. Urban Rangers and years of experience giving L.A. River tours.

An accessway that's not so easy to find. | Photo: Courtesy Escape Apps

The app is thoroughly detailed, but not in any boring textbook way. Let's take Carbon Beach, for example. The so-called Billionaire's Beach currently has three open access points and two that may open someday. They're all mapped out and for the two that are closed, there's tips on how to take civic action to help get it open. As for where you can go on the sand and where you can't, all is explained in great, easy-to-understand detail (basic tip: If you're on wet sand, it generally is accepted as public land. Beyond that, understanding the mean high tide line and where easements are, Price goes house by house).

All in all, this app will be a game changer in the public's understanding of their access to Malibu's beautifully famous beaches. No longer will a drive down the PCH be seen as a hunt for usable beach space because everyone will know that it is 100 percent public.

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