Manhattan Beachers aren't the only ones giving side-eye to Malibu homeowners' plans to harvest offshore sand for their erosion-prone beach--environmentalists think the whole thing is pretty wack too. The 114 ridiculously wealthy homeowners of Broad Beach (average house price: $7.8 million) have voted to tax themselves to temporarily rebuild their rapidly-shrinking beach; the $20 million plan calls for taking 600,000 cubic yards of sand from a "borrow site" to "carefully sculpt the more voluptuous shoreline of yore," as The Hollywood Reporter puts it in an excellent roundup of the whole mess. The project, currently under review by the California Lands Commission, would only take a few months and the Broad Beachers say it'll be a benefit to everyone, since a wider beach means more room for the masses (under California law, any sand seaward of the mean high tide line is public). For a short while anyway: the beach would only be saved for about 20 years, tops (the SLC report says it could re-narrow within three years).
After Manhattan Beach raised an uproad, Broad dropped its plan to take sand from its waters, but is now looking at sites off Ventura Harbor and Dockweiler Beach. Broad homeowners, incidentally, include Modern Family co-creator Steven Levitan, Steven Spielberg, Michael Ovitz, Dustin Hoffman, Ray Romano, Roy Disney's daughter Susan Disney Lord, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, former Universal president Sid Sheinberg, Frank Sinatra's widow, the lawyer who acted as executor of L. Ron Hubbard's estate, and on and on. Naturally, they are not used to not getting their way. Here are some kind of unbelievable things about their proposed plans:
-- As the beach eroded over the years and the public area got smaller and smaller, "Wary property owners took to installing no-trespassing signage along the beach to clearly demarcate their territory and had the homeowners association hire private security to patrol its borders on ATVs. Many nonresidents found the signs misleadingly placed and the rent-a-cops hostile."
-- There's some evidence that the fancy houses themselves have played a part in the erosion, which of course the property owners dispute.
-- After a 2010 storm, Broad homeowners spent $4 million on a huge (30 feet wide and up to 17 feet tall) rock seawall "running in front of their homes almost the entire length of the beach." This was supposed to be temporary, but now they want to keep it and cover it in sand to recreate their lost dunes. One beach erosion specialist says the location of the wall is "absurdly seaward" (meaning it cuts off public access); a watershed expert adds that those kinds of seawalls are meant "to protect the structures behind it, not the beach in front of it," and that they actually cause more erosion.
-- The new dunes would include 114 individual footpaths leading up to the houses, "bisecting what is supposed to be an 'environmentally sensitive habitat area,' which the public is forbidden from walking on." Residents also want to be able to select their own dune plantings (from an approved list), as opposed to letting an expert choose what'll be best for the dunes.
-- A US Geological Survey scientist says that offshore sand is not so plentiful as Broad makes it out and moreover that "once a pit is dredged, it typically refills with 'the wrong kind of material'."
-- The new sand could mess with the tide pool inhabitants on the northwest end of Broad Beach.
-- Wild old Malibu is still on a septic system, meaning Broad is full of septic tanks threatened by any kind of upheaval on the beach.
-- Broader/entertainment lawyer Marshall Grossman says "I can understand objections if we were unleashing wild animals or placing nuclear waste on the beach ... But sand? Give us a break."
-- Modern Family creator Levitan: "We can't imagine there being a negative environmental impact to restoring the beach to its former self."
Some environmentalists are suggesting that the Broad homeowners put their money into, say, raising their houses on stilts instead of sand-harvesting. Meanwhile, the State Lands Commission has pushed off its hearing on the matter to allow for more public comment; it should consider the project in early 2013.
· Malibu's Bizarre Sand War Pits Celebrities vs. Nature [THR]
· Rich Broad Beach's Plans to Harvest Sand From Manhattan [Curbed LA]