Is a private beach legal in California? Ask the lawyer – San Bernardino Sun

Q: We were at the coast and took a nice stroll along the shore. We saw a sign posted that read, “Private.”  We were not sure if we could continue. Is a private beach legal here?

A.M. Burbank

Ron Sokol

A: The California Constitution guarantees public access to California’s coast (Article X, Section 4). The longstanding California Coastal Act mandates “maximum access, which shall be conspicuously posted” to carry out the constitutional requirements.

The Coastal Act seeks to ensure that the public has the right to freely walk up to the mean high tide line, no matter who owns the property fronting the beach. If you can get there from the water, tidelands or an adjacent beach, research indicates, you are allowed to be there as long as you don’t venture onto the land above where high tide would be. A way of thinking about this is: you are OK where the sand is wet. Still, controversy and litigation over coastal access issues are not uncommon.

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