Rules for California Beach Events - What are the Regulations?
When I am asked that question, I first want to know which beach the person is
referring to. Often, the individual hasn't really solidified a plan, but is
hoping there is some huge, sweeping rule that applies to all the beaches in
California, thus making the planning simpler.
Good or bad, there are no set rules and the beaches in California are
governed by entities ranging from
the State of California (can't think of a national beach in CA, except maybe the
National Marine Sanctuary at Channel Islands off the coast of Southern
California, to private land-owners who may claim a beach is private.
While, in theory, there are no privately-owned beaches, there are some
military installations along the coast (Camp Pendleton near Oceanside & San
Clemente, for example), and some Hollywood moguls who like to think they own
portions of the Malibu beaches.
Back to the question about having a special event, the rule of thumb San
Diego beaches use are if it's over 50 people, then you need a permit. Many
church groups and corporate events with hotels near the beach take liberty and
do not get licenses for special events on the beach with numbers exceeding 50,
so the primary concerns most state and city beach operations have are for the
type of event and activities planned. Find a city that doesn't want to charge
for fun, then keep an eye on your good times.
Truth is, many beaches prohibit concerts, amplified music, alcohol beverages
and charging for admission. And if you are thinking of planning a wedding on a
California beach, many spots will discourage you from doing so during the busy
summer months, claiming that you won't be able to keep gawkers away, and the
crowds may impact your plans.
I can testify to the crowds being a factor. I was invited to a beach birthday
part on a Saturday evening in July at Huntington City Beach. The beach was so
crowded and parking so horrific that many didn't show up for the party because
they simply couldn't park their cars and get to the event.
One City Council member for Huntington Beach stated that she was lucky to
find a parking spot, but did have to walk some distance. Long and short of it,
the party had only half the expected attendance, the beaches were packed and the
enjoyment level wasn't quite what it could have been. The person planning the
beach party had twice as much food as was needed because of the small turnout,
and they ended up it eating it, so to speak.
So as summer returns to our beloved California beaches and you begin to
think: Weenie Roasts, Birthday Toasts, Volleyball Groups, Corporate Hoola Hoops,
etc., just remember that weekdays are generally the ticket to access, parking
and pleasure. If you must have a weekend "do", don't make it the 4th of July or
Labor Day weekend, to name a few. Those happen to be two of the busiest beach
attendance times of the year.
As for getting a permit, here's what you have to do.
1. Pick a spot or two. 2. Find out who runs the beach you choose. 3. Contact
that agency and ask about beach parties (these people know the rules). 4. Don't
commit to putting money down on the event till you get specifics about what that
agency provides. If they provide nothing, shop around and look for companies
that offer beach catering so you pay no fees (Zack's Pier Plaza in Huntington
Beach is one). That's your cheapest, easiest approach. But if you want to go all
out (money's no object,) find beaches such as Ventura Beach where the state
parks offers assistance in your event.
For large events such as the paintball contest on the beach we wrote about
previously, you will need a license (big time!) Plan to spend thousands in fees
for events that draw large crowds. Often you will need to work with an assigned
city event planner, and have your licenses, bonding, and schematics for the
event and specifications as to whether food will be served (fire marshal
issues), you'll charge a fee (California Coastal Agency regulations), and noise
abatement (police department). By the time you add it all up, you will be paying
lots of money, so you better have some great sponsors!
Author's Note: We have written about California's beaches for over a decade. The
reporter once worked for a tourism bureau, helping to promote beach events and
beach activities in California. She currently provides coverage of special beach
events and California events in her Californiabeaches.com web site, where
millions of travelers annually find information about California beaches such as
wedding spots, dog beaches, beach events and bonfire rings. Providing
information and travel products such as
tickets and boat cruises, Stock is proud to contribute to California beach
economies through tourism promotions and coverage of ecological issues important
to the vitality of the natural resources at beaches in California.