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Malibu homeowners struggling with $20 million plan to save celebrity beach from erosion

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MALIBU, Calif. - Malibu's celebrity haven of Broad Beach is struggling to survive as nature chews away at the shoreline and a $20 million effort to replace sand appears to be stuck in the mud.

Homeowners have run up against opposition and complicated approval processes as they pursue a plan to dredge sand from elsewhere and dump it to restore the 1.1-mile (1.8-kilometre) beachfront, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In recent years, winter storms and rising high tides have reduced the formerly broad beach, where Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman and others have their beach houses.

Waves sometimes lap up to an 8-foot (2.4-meter)-high 4,100-foot (1,250-meter)-long emergency rock wall that state regulators allowed homeowners to build about three years ago to protect dozens of multimillion-dollar homes.

"The (wall) is perilously close to certain homes," said Kenneth A. Ehrlich, an attorney for the homeowners. "The homes are certainly in danger. ... There's no beach right now that anyone can enjoy."

Steve Levitan, co-creator of the TV series "Modern Family," recalled taking family strolls on the beach but said he now plans walks to avoid high tide.

With the reduced footage, "surfers can't get out to the good surf spots, and the homeowners can't get there, either," he said. Residents are proposing a $20 million project to dredge tons of sand and transplant it to restore the dunes and shoreline, both public and private.

Manhattan Beach blocked plans to use its sand, and residents now are considering using sea-bottom sand from Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles.

However, the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors has objected, saying the sand might be needed to restore other public beaches as sea levels rise.

For years, Broad Beach was the subject of feuding between homeowners and the public over access. At one point, security guards were hired to patrol the beach, and sunbathers contended they were harassed.

In 2005, 108 property owners took tons of sand from the public beach and packed it up into a berm on their property. The work was ordered halted by the California Coastal Commission.

When the commission permitted residents to build the $4 million wall, it ordered residents to come up with a stabilization plan that must take effect by 2015.

Homeowners said they have spent about $5 million so far for scientific studies and regulatory approvals but they have not yet completed a formal proposal for the coastal and state lands commissions.

"We have faced a bureaucratic nightmare in attempting to accomplish this project," said Marshall Grossman, a lawyer with a retreat on Broad Beach. "One would think we were attempting to build high-rise condos on a public beach."

Even if Broad Beach residents get their sand, such erosion-fighting measures are going to remain an issue in the future.

"As sea level rises, it's only going to get more challenging to figure how to deal with that," said Charles Lester, the coastal commission's executive director.

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