Coastal Commission Smacks Two Homeowners with $5.1M Fine for Blocking Beach Access

Courtesy of The Coastal Commission

The largest of the two fines hit Dr. Warren M. Lent and his wife, Henny, who rent out a home at 20802 Pacific Coast Highway and must now pay almost $4.2 million for blocking access to a 3-mile stretch of coastline.

The California Coastal Commission just sent a very serious — and expensive — message to Malibu homeowners considering blocking public access to beaches in front of their homes.

On Friday, the 12-member commission charged with enforcing the Coastal Act, levied a $5 million fine to two Malibu property owners who they claim have repeatedly blocked access to the Las Flores Beach and Carbon Beach respectively.

The largest of the two fines targeted Dr. Warren M. Lent and his wife, Henny, who rent out a home at 20802 Pacific Coast Highway. The couple, who have been battling the Coastal Commission for almost a decade, must now pay almost $4.2 million for blocking access to a 3-mile stretch of coastline using a locked gate and an unpermitted private staircase.

“You’re either going to let people down your stairs or you’re not,” said Commission Chair Dayna Bochco in a statement. “They have been playing very serious games and that’s what led us here.”

In 2014, the State Legislature granted the commission authority to levy fines for the first time. The $4.2 million fine far exceeded the $950,000 fine recommended by the agency’s staff. The lack of access to public beaches in Malibu has been a point of contention between the city and various Malibu homeowners for decades. All beaches are considered public by state law, but according to the commission some homeowners have resorted to blocking access with fake “no parking” signs, painting curbs red and in some cases employing security guards to patrol beaches in front of their homes.

"We think that the amount of civil penalties imposed is unconscionable,” Alan Block, the attorney for the Lents, tells The Hollywood Reporter. Block says his clients are waiting on a feasibility study that the Coastal Commission never delivered and that they are clearly trying to make an example out of the Lents. The Lents now have 60 days to consider filing a counter-lawsuit, and Block says they are “considering all options.”

In a second case, commissioners also approved a $925,000 fine as part of a settlement with the owners of the Malibu Beach Inn. That settlement, according to the commission, ended amicably and will result in two new stairways that lead to Carbon Beach. 

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