Paul Wellman (file)

What otherwise would have been a backroom deal quietly worked out between the Hollister Ranch and the California Coastal Conservancy over public access to the largest stretch of privately owned beach in the state has now drawn more than 600 comments, all but three of which have been critical and negative. The silence on the deal ​— ​which for the first time ever allowed limited public access to a three-quarter-mile length of beachfront on the Hollister Ranch ​— ​was broken a month ago by Judge Colleen Sterne, who ruled that the public should be given an opportunity to weigh in. State officials and Hollister Ranch representatives had hoped to keep the settlement a private understanding.

Hollister Ranch sued the state in 2013, arguing that an easement onto the ranch originally deeded to the Boy Scouts decades ago was legally unenforceable. The validity of that easement was never litigated, but owners of the 14,000-acre property ​— ​famously home away from home to the likes of musician Jackson Browne and filmmaker James Cameron ​— ​vowed to fight it tooth and nail in the courts. Late last year, the ranch and state agencies came to terms that allowed public access, but only via the water and by surfboard, kayak, or soft-bottom boat.

According to the Coastal Commission ​— ​which will host an informational hearing on the deal on July 13 ​— ​nearly all of the comments submitted argue the settlement failed to secure an adequate amount of public access. The Coastal Commission is also party to the settlement, raising questions as to what changes the commissioners might make if they were so moved.


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