The California Coastal Commission Thursday approved an agreement with Malibu homeowner Lisette Ackerberg for the construction of a public access way through her property to Carbon Beach.
The agreement comes after years of litigation surrounding the effort to open up the access way along a mile-long stretch of exclusive beach-front homes along the Malibu coast known as "Billionaires Beach." The exclusive stretch of beach is home to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, entertainment mogul David Geffen and former Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt.
"This image of a wall of private development along the coast in Malibu represented ground zero in terms of holding onto to access for the public. Sometimes with these small access ways there is a lot still be preserved, to fight for and to save," Coastal Commissioner Jana Zimmer said.
In November, the California Supreme Court upheld a decision by a lower court that reaffirmed a 2009 Coastal Commission order that required Ackerberg to allow public access from the Pacific Coast Highway to the beach and remove the obstacles blocking the path.
Dianne Abbitt, an attorney for Ackerberg, told Coastal Commissioners Thursday in San Diego that Ackerberg and her late husband are staunch environmentalists and that she has already started to open up the access way. Abbitt said her client agreed to open up the easement when the courts did not rule in her favor.
"We have an excellent plan to create an access way which is going to be ADA compliant," Abbitt said. "We look forward to having it completed and having the access way opened."
As part of the agreement, Ackerberg will pay the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority $35,000 a year for 10 years for the operation and maintenance of the access way.
She will also pay $350,000 to a violation remediation account managed by the MRCA and she will pay $160,000 a year to the account for each year until the access easements are open. In addition, she agreed to pay $170,000 in attorneys fees. The total fees equal more than $1.1 million.
In 2009, Access for All, a non-profit which manages and maintains several of Malibu’s public access ways, filed a lawsuit against Ackerberg to compel her to remove a series of developments that blocked the path to the beach, including a concrete slab, generator, light posts and a 9-foot-high wall, according to court documents. That easement has since been transferred to the management of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which is a partner with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
Abbitt said previously that Access for All settled the lawsuit under the stipulation that the non-profit would attempt to open another public access way located 500 feet from Ackerberg’s property.
The other access way is owned by the county and runs across portions of the Malibu Outrigger Condominium’s parking lot, Abbitt said.
Abbitt said Ackerberg paid the non-profit $125,000 to construct the path and another $125,000 to maintain it. However, the county access way was never opened and on July 8, 2009, the CCC filed its own separate administrative cease and desist order against Ackerberg. The court's ruling vacated the settlement agreement between Ackerberg and Access For All. That active case is expected to be dismissed on March 29.
According to the CCC, the public access point is about one third of a mile from the Zonker Harris public entry point and half a mile from the David Geffen entrance point to the coast. Geffen does not pay for the maintenance of the access way.
Both the county access way and the one on Ackerberg’s property lead to Carbon Beach.