Most of Montara’s spectacular rocky shoreline is only visible to the public from the ends of county streets west of Highway 1. Private encroachments into the public right-of-way are diminishing this coastal access. The coastal end of 7th Street has been walled off, like a boarded-up picture window. 5th Street has been developed with walls, landscaping and private property sign. These are not dead-end streets leading nowhere. These are public coastal access points. San Mateo County’s Local Coastal Program Table 10.6, Recommendations for Shoreline Destinations, states, “Keep open ends of residential streets in Montara … and develop them as viewpoints.”
California Coastal Commissioner Steve Blank re 7th Street: “This public street is blocked off. This homeowner has been given a private gated part of the beach… Don’t we have an issue with the County about closing off a public street?”
5th and 7th Streets are 60-ft-wide rights-of-way which were accepted by the County for public use and have not been abandoned. The County’s own street policies acknowledge as legal basis that "The owner of a subdivided lot typically holds fee title to the center of the abutting street, but has no right to possess or occupy that area." The public’s right of non-motorized access to unimproved “paper" streets, such as 5th Street, cannot be taken away without a Board of Supervisor’s Resolution to abandon the street. The 7th Street fence was supposedly allowed by County staff over 40 years ago via an encroachment permit which cannot be found. Encroachment permits are not permanent and can be revoked at any time.
The Midcoast Community Council has asked the County to rescind the 7th Street encroachment permit and remove the fence, and to require removal of 5th Street private encroachments. County staff has declined to act, saying enforcement is at their discretion. The County should uphold the Midcoast Local Coastal Program and put a higher priority on protecting coastal ends of county streets and rights-of-way for public benefit.
For more information and photos, visit http://www.midcoastcommunitycouncil.org/montara-coast/