By Kristina Pritchett

Last week, one day after the California Coastal Commission (CCC) voted against retractable gates at Strand Beach, the city took down the gates at the beach access points.

The dispute began six years ago when City Council approved of an ordinance to limit beach access hours through the neighborhood. In 2010, the city adopted a Nuisance Abatement Ordinance, which established hours of operation. Several lawsuits and appeals ensued, and this week’s removal of the gates is the culmination of a settlement recently reached between the city and the CCC.

That settlement resulted in enforcing the operating hours of 5 a.m.-10 p.m. at Strand Vista Park, Central Strand Beach Access and Mid-Strand Beach Access. The switchback trail and the revetment trail are open 24 hours per day.

In July, the Planning Commission recommended sending a zone text amendment to the Headlands Development and Conservation Plan (HDCP) to the City Council to allow the use of retractable gates at the Central Strand Upper Access point and the Central Strand Lower Access point. The amendment also enforced the Coastal Commission approved night-time hours of operation through the Strand neighborhood.

In August, the Council introduced and conducted the first reading; in September, they approved the amendment and sent it to the CCC.

During a CCC meeting on Dec. 7, the commissioners voted 8-4 against the retractable gates, which was a recommendation from the Commission’s executive director.

However, a couple of commissioners were in favor of the gates and said they could see the positive aspects.

Commissioner Effie Turnbull-Sanders voted against the gates and said she was concerned about the message it sent.

“[Californians] may not feel welcome,” Turnbull-Sanders said.

Commissioner Olga Diaz also voted against the gates and said that it feels like the Commission was trying to fix something that hadn’t gone wrong yet and there was not a justification for the gates.

The commissioners did say the city could hang a rope in place, but Councilman Joe Muller and attorney Steve Kaufman, who was hired by the city during the litigation process, said a rope or a chain would not prevent people from entering the beach during closed hours.

Less than 24 hours after the decision was made, the city removed the gates at the access points but left the fence.

Acting City Manager Mike Killebrew said removing the gates was part of the settlement and that the gates have been locked in an open position for more than a year now.

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