EDITORIAL: An app for the big question: How do you get to the beach?

FresnoJuly 5, 2013 

Crowds gather at the beach, Sunday, July 18, 2010, in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

MARK J. TERRILL — AP

With triple-digit temperatures, California's 1,100-mile coast and scenic beaches beckon. Eighty percent of Californians live within an hour of the coast. Fresnans are about three hours away.

The California Constitution and state laws guarantee a right to walk on the wet beach anyplace along the coast. The tidelands are a "democratic commons," open to all.

Unfortunately, you sometimes come up on phony, illegal "private beach," "no trespassing," or "no stopping" signs and security guards that dot exclusive areas on the coast -- such as Malibu in the south and Seadrift in the north.

Yet under the state constitution, all tidelands are public: "No individual, partnership or corporation" that owns frontage or tidal lands "shall be permitted to exclude the right of way to such water ... ."

The people of California guaranteed public access to beaches with Proposition 20, the Coastal Initiative of 1972. And legislators affirmed that with the California Coastal Act of 1976.

Now Southern California has a tool to make public access easier. Environmental writer Jenny Price worked with Escape Apps to create a smartphone app called "Our Malibu Beaches" to help people navigate beaches -- from hidden gates and paths to dealing with illegal signs and intimidating security guards -- all fact-checked by a California Coastal Commission manager.

We need similar apps for Central California and Northern California.

Take Stinson Beach along Highway 1. The southern end is parkland and has a parking lot.

But on summer days it sometimes reaches capacity, making other access points important. At the north end is the gated Seadrift subdivision. The public may use the beach below the high-tide mark. Public access is through the Jose Patio cul-de-sac off Calle Del Arroyo, which has an easement dedicated to the public, or from Walla Vista, where Marin County owns the lot at the end.

But how would anyone know?

With a smartphone app, Californians could find an uncrowded beach on a hot day without carrying the 300-page "California Coastal Access Guide." Any takers?

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