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Judge orders Malibu homeowner to allow public pathway to beach

July 14, 2011 |  7:06 pm

One of California’s priciest beachfronts may become a little less exclusive after a judge sided with state coastal regulators fighting to build a public pathway next to an oceanfront Malibu mansion.

In a ruling made public last week, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant upheld a 2009 California Coastal Commission order telling Lisette Ackerberg to clear the way for a public walkway to Carbon Beach along the edge of her property.

The decision also revealed a private settlement between Ackerberg and Access for All, a nonprofit group that works to secure public beach access. In a deal that enraged coastal regulators, the nonprofit group agreed to abandon plans to open the pathway through her property in exchange for $250,000 in payments and attorneys’ fees.

The Ackerberg compound is on Malibu’s Carbon Beach, a ritzy stretch of coastline where the rich and famous have long resisted attempts to open public pathways alongside their multimillion-dollar homes.

The Ackerberg mansion, which includes a swimming pool and tennis court and extends over two lots, is about half a mile up the coast from music mogul David Geffen’s beachfront compound. In 2005, Geffen handed over the keys to a walkway along his property after a protracted dispute, allowing some visitors access to the sand for the first time.

Coastal Commission officials say a development permit from the 1980s requires Ackerberg to offer a 10-foot-wide easement for public access.

The state agency didn’t take action to open it to the public until 2003, when it authorized the nonprofit group Access for All to build and oversee the walkway.

After the group found large rocks, a 9-foot-high wall, a concrete slab, a generator, light posts, landscaping and other items blocking the area, the state notified Ackerberg in 2005 that they had to be removed.

Ackerberg rebuffed, saying that the state should instead force Los Angeles County to build a different pathway promised just up the coast.

When the Coastal Commission issued a cease-and-desist order to force her to clear the way in 2009, she filed suit to overturn it.

State coastal officials have argued that their longstanding policy is to maximize coastal access, not trade one potential pathway for another.

The judge agreed, ruling that no matter how much Ackerberg argues that the county-owned pathway is better, “the public is entitled to both.”


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--Tony Barboza

Photo: A Beachcomber walks along Malibu's Carbon Beach. Credit: Genaro Molina