Santa Cruz’s Privates Beach coastal access dispute winds down

LIVE OAK — Once asserting that it did not need new permission to keep the small “Privates” beach locked and privately accessible, the Opal Cliffs Recreation District agreed this week to maintain free daily coastal access, with a scaled back security gate in place by summer.

The well-maintained beach courtyard with stairway beach access, located off Opal Cliffs Drive between Pleasure Point and Capitola, has been open during the daytime for most of the past two years’ dispute. Previously, users were able to purchase a keycard at a local surf shop for about $100 a year. Fees were used to fund such things as the recreation district’s property maintenance, stairway upkeep and gate attendants.

Coastal Commission enforcement supervisor Pat Veersart, who has been overseeing the Opal Cliffs Recreation District debate for years, said he was cautiously optimistic about the remaining process, and looks forward to the district’s follow-through in applying to Santa Cruz County for a coastal development permit by Jan. 15. Privates, said Veesart, features the only public park in the state charging for coastal access — meaning the case carries statewide implications.

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