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Santa Cruz Neighborhood Rejects State Orders to Open Public Beach for Free

Opal Cliffs, also known as Privates Beach, is a secluded pocket beach managed by a neighborhood district and accessible with a $100 annual gate key. (Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Opal Cliffs, also known as Privates Beach, is a secluded pocket beach managed by a neighborhood district and accessible with a $100 annual gate key. (Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Rather than negotiating with coastal officials as planned this week, a Santa Cruz neighborhood group said Wednesday it doesn’t need renewed permission to charge a $100 annual fee to access a county park known by locals as Privates Beach.

The Opal Cliffs Recreation District has argued that it already has the right, established by state and county permits, to sell gate keys and use proceeds to keep the beach clean and safe.

But the California Coastal Commission stepped in and voided the entire gate operation, citing the state’s landmark Coastal Act, which declares that access to the beach is a fundamental right guaranteed to everyone. The commission demanded that the neighborhood group start the permit process from scratch, but in a bold move district leaders fought back by withdrawing from the process entirely.

The move sets up a legal fight over the future of the beach. If the gate operation remains in effect, it would be the first time a public beach in California is allowed to charge for access itself.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.