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By Kristina Pritchett

A public hearing has been scheduled for the next Planning Commission meeting to discuss access gates at the Central Strand and Mid-Strand Public Beach Access points.

City Manager Doug Chotkevys said the local coastal program amendment (LCPA) is for an addition of gates at the Headlands as outlined in a settlement agreement.

“This opening of the gate is what was always going to happen, and what should have happened in the very beginning, to not only comply with the law, but also to support the spirit of the law by maximizing beach access for all citizens,” said Dana Point resident Jay Sowell, who previously filed a public records request with city to access Strand lawsuit expenditures.

In 2009, the city started to lock the gates at two paths with closing times of 5 p.m.-8 a.m. in the fall and winter months, and 7 p.m.-8 a.m. in the spring and summer. Gates were originally included in the Headlands development plan drawings, but gates were not included in the permit text. The Coastal Commission deemed the presence of the gates and establishment of the closing hours contrary to the Coastal Act and Local Costal Program, and ordered that the gates be removed.

In April 2016, the California Coastal Commission staff recommended a settlement agreement, putting an end to six years of litigation over gates and nighttime closure hours at the Mid-Strand and Central-Strand access ways.

The settlement included an agreement to “modify the local CDP to include approval of designated hours of operation for the Strand Access Areas”—the hours of operation were generally longer than previously determined, and specific areas of access were designated.

The current amendment states if approved, three retractable gates and public access signage will be installed at the Mid-Strand Beach Access, Central Strand Beach Access and Central Strand Lower Beach Access to enforce hours of operation.

The public hearing is set for July 25 during public session. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

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