Will Rogers State Beach Parking Lot
A version of this letter was sent by the Pacific Palisades Community Council Executive Committee to Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Agency secretary, and Armando Quintero, California Department of Parks and Recreation director, and has been reprinted here with permission. The full letter is available at pacpalicc.org.
Introduction & Background
Since 1973, Pacific Palisades Community Council has been the most broad-based community organization and voice of Pacific Palisades—a coastal and hillside residential community within the city of Los Angeles, situated in the wildland-urban interface with the Santa Monica Mountains.
WRSB is a state beach located in Pacific Palisades and owned by the state since 1942 for recreational use by all Californians. For many decades, our community has been privileged to welcome countless visitors from all walks of life who regularly use the WRSB parking lot in order to access the beach and ocean (public trust land) for recreation and enjoyment.
The County of Los Angeles operates WRSB and has done so since 1975. The city has been a lessee of WRSB since 1948, but became a holdover or “month-to-month” tenant in 1999, when the original 50-year lease term expired. Today, the city remains a holdover tenant with limited involvement or obligations; the state remains the owner of WRSB and is the city’s landlord.
The City Council has now directed the City Administrative Officer to evaluate the parking lots at WRSB and another state beach, Dockweiler Beach, as possible sites for “temporary” homeless housing. For many compelling reasons, PPCC maintains that the WRSB parking lot is entirely infeasible and strongly opposes its use for homeless housing of any kind.
The feasibility study has been substantially completed and a final report by the CAO is expected within a few weeks. Based on our review of documents and information, we believe it is likely that the CAO has already determined that the use is feasible, subject to approval of the state. To that end, we understand that CAO staff has recently reached out to the Cal Parks Angeles District (acting) superintendent and may also be reaching out to your offices, seeking to obtain a possible statement of approval or non-objection, which in turn may be included in the final feasibility study report that is expected to be submitted to City Council by the end of July.
We hope and trust that the state will decline to approve of this use, which would be unprecedented at any state beach or park in California—and is contrary to precedent established last year at another California state beach, as well as to the express mission of the Natural Resources Agency and Cal Parks—to protect and expand access for all.
In early April 2020, when the beaches were closed due to pandemic orders, the city of Half Moon Bay proposed to use a campground at Francis State Beach (within Half Moon Bay State Beach), for a temporary homeless shelter. The HMB deputy city manager has confirmed to us that after HMB’s then-State Senator Jerry Hill made inquiries to state officials (including Cal Parks and the governor’s office), HMB officials were informed by the Cal Parks director that the state declined to allow this use at Francis Beach, even at a time when the state beach was closed to public use.
To our knowledge, homeless housing has not been allowed by the state at any state beach or park in California at any time. According to the Cal Parks website, the agency’s holdings include 280 state “park units” and over 340 miles of coastline. It would be entirely inconsistent and unprecedented for the state to make this one exception and allow homeless housing now at WRSB—for three to three and a half years as the city claims is required, or for any length of time—especially when the beach is fully open and regularly used by countless visitors from the entire region and beyond.
Mission: Access for All
It is the express mission of all relevant California agencies to protect and enhance public access for all to state parks, state beaches, public trust lands and/or the coast, as a matter of equity and environmental justice for all Californians.
Restricting access to a treasured California recreational resource by placing homeless housing at the WRSB parking lot would be the antithesis of this mission. Public resources such as the state beaches and parks are for everyone to use and enjoy, the housed and the unhoused alike, including disadvantaged or vulnerable populations who may otherwise have reduced access to recreational opportunities. Moreover, the regulations applicable to these sites should be applied to everyone equally, regardless of status, without favoring or treating one group differently from another group, whether housed or unhoused.
We respectfully urge you to deny approval for the use of WRSB for homeless housing, acting on behalf of the state in your respective capacities as representatives of the Natural Resources Agency (the umbrella agency with oversight authority over Cal Parks and the other relevant agencies below) and/or of Cal Parks. Thank you for your anticipated prompt attention to and consideration of this important matter.
Executive Committee, Pacific Palisades Community Council
David Card, Chair
Christina Spitz, Secretary
David Kaplan, Vice-Chair
Richard G. Cohen, Treasurer
John Padden, Organization Representative (P.R.I.D.E.)
Joanna Spak, Elected Representative (Area 1; Castellammare, Paseo Miramar)
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.