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Rules for California Beach Events - What are the Regulations?


What are the rules for having special events on the beaches of California?

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 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 hotel deals, theme park 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.



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