Strands Beach as it once existed. Photo:

Strands Beach as it once existed. Photo: Cliff Wassmann

The Inertia

I grew up a stone’s throw away from Strands Beach. Well, what used to be Strands, at least. For many years it was rather an anomaly amid the development and affluence that seemed to have its tight grip on much of Dana Point at the time. It felt natural. Untouched even. Palm trees and ice plants laden with purple flowers that blossomed in spring covered the entire bluff, overlooking a stunning beach below. Sadly, that no longer exists.

Multi-million-dollar homes rumored to belong to well-heeled folks like Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney now plague the hill, obstructing the view of the beach from the parking lot that sits above. To get to the beach, a rent-a-cop in a golf cart directs beach goers during permitted access hours like cattle through a narrowly gated pathway, making sure no one gets out of line and bothers the neighbors. Today, with the help of the Surfrider Foundation, the City of Dana Point signed an agreement that is aimed at lifting those restrictions.

Strands Beach

With these homes came absurd ordinance, restricting access to a public beach. Photo: Surfer Today

After a six-year legal battle with the Surfrider Foundation and the California Coastal Commission, the City of Dana Point has finally signed the Settlement Agreement, which lifts the restrictive beach access hours and gated access-ways to Strands Beach. The Settlement Agreement has been signed by the City, but will have to be approved by the Coastal Commission at the April meeting before it’s signed by Jack Ainsworth, Acting Executive Director of the Coastal Commission.

“This Settlement Agreement marks a significant victory for the public as beachgoers in South Orange County,” said Angela Howe, Surfrider’s Legal Director. “We are glad to see the fruit of six years of labor, as Surfrider has fought to keep this access open and the City accountable. We will support this Settlement Agreement for signature at the April Coastal Commission hearing and, if passed, consider it a victory for our long-fought battle for beach access at Dana Point Strands Beach.”


Rick Erkeneff, Chairman of the Surfrider Foundation South Orange County Chapter adds, “It’s great to put this issue to bed once and for all, and the public gets what it deserves – access to the beautiful Strands Beach.”

The City of Dana Point will dismiss all litigation with the Surfrider Foundation and the California Coastal Commission. Both cases have been on-going since 2010. In addition, the City agrees to $300,000 worth of mitigation to settle the years of Coastal Act violations that this beach access issue has implicated.

Learn more about the terms of the Settlement Agreement as well as the history of this beach access case battle here.

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