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October 07, 2007


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Hi Chris!
Wanted to let you know that the current Local Coastal Plan proposes to turn the current coastal access point (current LCP) into a Coastal View Point.
I'm not taking a position on whether a prescriptive easement should be established at this particular spot since the current roadway was washed out, but wanted to make sure you're aware of this opportunity for comment so a reasonable determination can be made.

For reference, here's the reference from the 1908 Local Coastal Land Use Plan document.
Public Safety: The beach is isolated from the rest of Pacifica. Public access is below standard and has been blocked by landslides in the past. Rockfalls are a danger along the beach below the bluffs.

I am a big fan of public spaces. This place is a funny one, though. It IS open to public use (to the "high tide line"). You can get there, not from swimming, but walking around the point from Linda Mar Beach. What is not open is the access down the stairs as well as the land around the houses. The old road/train bed to the north is unsafe for use at all, although it is still sometimes used. There are no public toilets down there. There are no public trash receptacles down there and the trash truck can't drive in anymore to pick up trash. One guy hauls out the residents' trash and recycling on his back. Can you imagine if the public was using the space regularly? Last, an injury on the stairs would be a liability to the owner. Just some food for thought.

It looks like the water comes up very close to the houses

What has happened since 2007?

I wanted to reach out and let you know what happened today. It was a beautiful day and I decided to take a hike and walk along the beach. I’m new to Pacifica and wanted to explore the beaches and look for surfing spots while enjoying the sun. I saw on Google Maps a beautiful little beach called Shelter Cove Beach in Pacifica, California. I found the main trail that leads down to the beach from Kent Road and Blackburn Terrace. I got down to the bottom of the trail where there were a few houses. A lady comes running out and starts screaming at me, telling me I’m on private property and I need to leave. I said, “I’m extremely sorry and I was looking for the accessible public beach." She said I would have to swim around the point to access the beach. I told her that that didn’t really seem right, but proceeded to go back up the steps, when a man came out from behind a building, took a hose, and blasted my dog and me in the face with water. I was empty, speechless, and violated. He soaked my phone and scared my dog. I quickly left and called the police to come and make a report and get information about the public access point. They said they’ll make a report but that the trail leading down was a private trail and to access the beach I would have to swim around the point. I’m posting this to get more information regarding this issue. Does a public beach require an accessible public trail to the beach? Was I in the wrong? I’m extremely shaken up by the incident and I was not treated right. I was physically attacked trying to access a public beach! Would love to get more information regarding this issue.


Since I wrote my original letter to the California Coastal Commission about public access at Shelter Cove Beach in Pacifica and it was posted here on the Riptide, I have received several emails and letters of support from eye witnesses to the public's use of Shelter Cove over the years (and we need more!). I am collecting all of these letters in a file for the Coastal Commission as they prepare to open their own investigation.

At the moment, Linda Locklin and her staff at the California Coastal Commission are preparing the official pre-investigation questionnaire. When it is released, this detailed questionnaire will ask residents and visitors several important questions about their experiences at Shelter Cove, past and present. The Commission uses information gathered from these questionnaires to evaluate their opening of an official, full-fledged investigation, and as such it is absolutely imperative that we collect as many questionnaires as possible and that each is as detailed as possible. If you know people who used Shelter Cove in the past, please get the word out and have them contact me. As soon as the questionnaire is released, I will forward it to all.

In the mean time, I am continuing to research and investigate on my own. I am very interested in collecting primary evidence showing historic use of Shelter Cove as a public place: old family photos, newspaper clippings, copies of journal entries, and the like (please send me copies of what you have). I am also sifting through a ton of old San Mateo County records and reports. This week, I found two San Mateo reports that look to support our case for prescriptive rights: In 1978, San Mateo County issued the “Local Coastal Program Background Report for Mid-Coast Shoreline Access.” In this report, Shelter Cove was one the beaches evaluated for prescriptive rights (i.e. open public access over private property). In 1998, the Planning and Building Division of the County of San Mateo issued its publication, “Local Coastal Program Policies Update.” In evaluating Shelter Cove for possible prescriptive rights, this report concluded that there was indeed historical evidence of a public access road/ trail to Shelter Cove Beach spanning several decades (1956 to 1970’s).

Of notable interest, I recently received a detailed letter of support from Lenore Lafayette of Cherry Orchard Books. In 1997, while living near Pacifica, Lenore wrote a book about Shelter Cove in the 1930’s, Shelter Cove the Early Years (available at Florey’s bookstore in Pacifica). In her letter, she recounts her first-hand experiences at Shelter Cove Beach: “I remember it as a lively place on weekends, a little more subdued during the week.” Disappointed at what it has become today, she fondly remembers Shelter Cove as it was, “a place that I remember as open and welcoming.” I encourage all to buy and read her book... especially those, like me, too young to remember what a precious pearl of a spot Shelter Cove was for our community before it was closed.

In closing, I want to remind folks who are following the investigation that these sorts of matters can take time and require undying support from locals in order to be successful. A volunteer activist, I will do what I can to keep you all informed. But I also encourage each of you to take your own action. Contact the Coastal Commission yourself, ask questions, write letters to the City of Pacifica, do your own investigation. The California Coast is a precious resource to us ALL; a gem that’s not worth losing to any one person.

Thank You and Kind Regards,

Chris Mejia
[email protected]

I have been in Pacifica since 1967. I personally visited Shelter Cove in the 1970's...more towards the 1974-1977 period, but when I think back about it, I want to say that I came to Shelter Cove all the way up to 1978 or so.

I knew someone who was a renter in one of the houses there. I remember people coming to Shelter Cove and being allowed to drive their cars into the Cove and either sit and eat their lunch or get out and walk around on the beach in the 1970's. I used to take my canvas and paints and paint in that area.

No one ever chased me out. The public could come and go. It was a rather remote location and the road was in disrepair, so there were not a lot of people at any one time there, but they were there and I was one of them.

I remember that I was quite surprised when I found that the road had been closed one day. I remember feeling very disappointed and never really understood how that could be done. But, in my memory I want to say that public access was still available until 1977/78 or so, but whatever the date was in the 1970's, I was an eyewitness to people coming and going at Shelter Cove, people that did not live there and only went there for recreational purposes.

As I said, I was one of those people.


Ann, Bruce, Others,

If you were an eye witness or know of an eye witness to the public's use and access to Shelter Cove Beach in Pacifica, please contact me directly at [email protected]. I just recieved the following letter from the California Coastal Commission:

"We, the CCC staff, have been aware of public access issues at this site for decades. At the request of Rob Caughlan of the Surfrider Foundation, we initiated a preliminary prescriptive rights investigation in 1990. For whatever reason, we did not receive any documented use of the former road or beach in question. At that same time, we invited the City of Pacifica to take on the lengthy and time consuming task of conducting the prescriptive rights study. I don't believe the City took any action. So, at this point, we have no documentation as to whether or not there are possible prescriptive rights. If there is interest, we can prepare another questionnaire (similar to the ones posted on the CCC website for other areas of the coast) and see what, if any, information is collected and go from there."

I have replied and asked that the questionnaire be created. It will then be up to us to raise awareness and find/ document eye witness accounts. Historical photos will also help. Until the questionnaire is created, please use me as a point contact person regarding Shelter Cove Beach Access.

If you know anyone at the Surfrider Foundation or City of Pacifica who might help, please ask and have them contact me.

This effort will only succeed through a grass-roots effort. We need to help the Coastal Commission make their case.

In addition to emailing me, please also post your replies here on the Riptide website, so we can all stay in the loop.


Chris Mejia
[email protected]

If in fact the seas will rise 'x' amount of feet over the next 75 years it is more than likely that Shelter Cove State Beach will be drowned eventually. It is obvious that the public was allowed access to this state beach in the past. From what I understand the California Coastal Act deems that we should be allowed today. I think we should all enjoy this location while it is still here.

This is an interesting URL


I suspect that if more people in Pacifica who remember historical public access to Shelter Cover were to speak out, in addition to the voice of Chris Mejia, that would carry more weight.

Linda Locklin
[email protected] or 831-427-4875.
Coastal Access Program
California Coastal Commission
725 Front Street, Suite 300
Santa Cruz, California, 95060.

If David Geffen was unable to block access to "his" beach in Malibu, this person out in Shelter Cove will fail also.
Depends on how far you want to push it.

Chris, from the little information that I have gathered I have been told that there is public access through the private property at the mean high tide mark. Furthermore, the old Ocean Shore Railroad may own the right of way still. It seems that the access road is indeed private property, but not necessarily that of the angry landlord.

I grew up in Pacifica and was a frequent visitor to Shelter Cove throughout my childhood, spanning the mid-'50s through mid-'70s. It was indeed open to the public, and it was a great disappointment to me when it was closed. I would be delighted to have Shelter Cove reopened for public use.

I wrote the original letter to the California Coastal Commission. I'd like to know your stories and accounts of Shelter Cove, past and present. Please post your message here, including any questions you may have, and we will stay in touch over this important issue. Many thanks! -Chris

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