Guide to Laws for Beachgoers in Los Angeles County
If you’re having a beach day in LA County, here’s what you need to know to have fun and stay out of trouble. These rules apply to all of these areas: Malibu, Topanga Beach, Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Dockweiler, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance Beach, Palos Verdes Beach, San Pedro, and Long Beach.
1. Beach access
Am I allowed to go on any beach I want?
Throughout California, the public has the right to be on any wet sand beach, generally up to the edge of the wet sand (there may be a few exceptions for national security, like near military bases, etc.). Also many dry sand beaches (though not all) are designated for public access.1CA Constitution, Article X, Section 4; CA Coastal Act
Great! How can I access all this beach?
There are designated public access ways (technically “easements”) to the beach throughout the state. However, some of these are famously blocked by nearby homeowners who put up signs like “private property” or “no trespassing.” Any such obstacles to the designated public access ways are illegal, and could result in a fine of up to $11,250/day.2CA Const. Art X, Sec 4. See also Carstens v. California Coastal Comm. (1986) 182 Cal.App.3d 277; CA Coastal Act; SB 861
2. Beach activities
Are there any restrictions on activities at the beach?
Yes, sorry to be a bummer but there are several. But better to know than to get fined, right? Here are some of the most important rules.
All of the following is prohibited at L.A. County beaches (from Malibu through Long Beach).3all following citations are from LA County Municipal Code, Chapter 17.12 (See more prohibited activities here)
- Throwing frisbees or balls in the summer without permission from a lifeguard. This means you may throw frisbees or balls only in the “off season” or with a permit or permission from a lifeguard. Any ball-throwing that endangers nearby crowds could lead to a fine of $100.4Sec. 17.12.430
- Nudity.5Sec. 17.12.360Sorry, kids.
- Digging a hole in the sand deeper than 18 inches.6Sec. 17.12.205 Trying to get to China?
- Overnight camping,7Sec. 17.12.250 or even being at the beach at all from midnight to 6am8Sec. 17.12.350
- Drinking alcohol9Sec. 17.12.320 or smoking10Sec. 17.12.365
- Fires, except for pits installed by the Dept of Beaches and Harbors11Sec. 17.12.370
- Cats and dogs,12Sec. 17.12.290 horses, mules, or “similar animals,”13Sec. 17.12.300
- Fireworks, except with written approval from the Director of the Dept of Beaches and Harbors and the Fire Chief14Sec. 17.12.400
- Selling or giving away any goods or merchandise, except with permission from the Board of Supervisors or the Director of the Dept of Beaches and Harbors15Sec. 17.12.340
- Swimming or surfing in hazardous conditions,16Sec. 17.12.440 or past 200 yards from the shore17Sec. 17.12.450
- Using any inflated equipment in the ocean, other than a “surfmat” (see Code for specifics)18Sec. 17.12.460
- Boating within 300 yards of the shore, with some exceptions19see exceptions here: Sec. 17.12.470
See more about available activities, facilities, and yes, rules, HERE.
For more information and asserting your rights to the beach, check out the Our Malibu Beaches app. (Note: we are not affiliated with this app)
|↑1||CA Constitution, Article X, Section 4; CA Coastal Act|
|↑2||CA Const. Art X, Sec 4. See also Carstens v. California Coastal Comm. (1986) 182 Cal.App.3d 277; CA Coastal Act; SB 861|
|↑3||all following citations are from LA County Municipal Code, Chapter 17.12|
|↑19||see exceptions here: Sec. 17.12.470|