A Malibu beach homeowner who was fined for $4.2 million after blocking public access to the beach is being allowed to stand by an appeals court.
On Monday, authorities ruled the Las Flores Beach homeowner Warren Lent and his wife, Henny. The residence is located on the Pacific Coast Highway and was built in the early 1908s.
Blocking public access
While the home was built under a permit that required a five-foot-wide public access easement, the first owner built a deck and stairway over the easement. He also installed a gate that blocked public access to the beach.
The Lent’s purchased the house in 2002 for $2.25 million with the gate still in place. The California Coastal Commission requested the Lents to remove the gate multiple times, which they all denied. Even when they were faced with fines amounting to more than $11,000 per day.
The couple argued the gate was necessary for their safety. But they were renting out the area to vacationers with fees of up to $9,000 per week. The couple advertised their home as having a “private beach.”
In 2016, the commission gave the Lents a fine of $4.185 million during a hearing. The amount was half the allowable maximum, one of the agency’s staff said. The couple argued the decision was unconstitutional, for both the amount and process of the fine, which they said was excessive.
A lower court set aside the penalty to the Lents and directed the coastal commission to allow the couple to submit additional evidence. The two parties appealed the decision. The appeals court later reversed the judgment.
“We conclude substantial evidence supported the Commission’s decision to issue the cease-and-desist order. We also conclude the Commission did not violate the Lents’ due process rights by imposing a $4,185,000 penalty,” the court said, Mercury News reported.
The massive fine comes as a warning to other beach homeowners in the region from blocking access using their residences. The coastal commission has long been in a stand-off against Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla from the Bay Area. He has been responsible for blocking public access to Martins Beach.