Warren and Henny Lent fined: How a Malibu beach couple were able to skirt laws to open to the public while raking in $1000 a night for their ‘private beach’.
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr Warren Lent and his wife Henny have been fined $4.2 million after years of refusing to to remove an unauthorized gate, fence, stairway and deck blocking access to Las Flores Beach at their Malibu Beach coastline residence.
In their ruling the California Coastal Commission said the couple had repeatedly blocked the required easement that had first been issued when the two-story house was constructed in 1979.
The whopping fine comes after Warren and Henny Lent contested the Commission’s repeated demands over the course of nine years to un-obstruct passages leading to what the couple deemed was their ‘private beach.’
The fine notes ktla5 exceeded the $950,000 recommended by the agency’s staff.
The fracas began when the original owner obstructed the easement leading onto the ‘public beach’ by installing the gate, fence, private stairway and deck with the Lents refusing to remove them.
Meanwhile, the Lents rented the $4.3million home out to tourists for $1,000 a night, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Using the website VRBO.com, Warren and Henny Lent asked an average rate of $1,018 per night, $9,200 per week and $32,000 per month for renters to have access to the illegally gotten private beach.
Reads the couple’s ad (still live) in part: ‘…a great place for a family to spread out and enjoy all aspects of beach living with plenty of room to invite guests.’
The couple, who bought the house in 2002 and were first contacted by the commission in 2007, advertised that the property had access to a private beach.
Lent claims that the couple never wanted to block the easement and were trying ‘in good faith to resolve the situation’.
Define good faith?
TWO PROPERTY OWNERS FINED $5.1 M FOR DENYING PEOPLE ACCESS TO PUBLIC BEACHES IN MALIBU https://t.co/WuDff5ozof
— Don Storch (@DonStorch) December 10, 2016
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) December 9, 2016
In the aftermath of the fines, the couple’s attorney, Alan Block has argued that the fines are too high for obstructions that the couple inherited rather than installed themselves.
But under current California law, the responsibility for fixing access permit violations falls on the owner. State of affairs Warren and Henny Lent were very well aware with the commission sending no less than 30 letters to the couple demanding that the couple remove the blocked easement.
Block said the couple were willing to pay a $100,000 fine in addition to removing the gate, deck, fence and stairs, while claiming that the couple could ‘never come to an agreement’ with the commission.
Do you suppose?
According to the latimes, Commissioner Mary Shallenberger said that several government agencies had to get involved in the nearly decade-long battle with the Lents.
‘The public lost during that time while the private property owner gained,’ she said.
Commissioners also said the couple’s case was ‘very egregious’ and a ‘flagrant violation’ of the law.
Told Commissioner Mark Vargas: ‘This represents an attitude we often see in Malibu – that the shore is our private backyard,’
‘It’s clear that they are dragging this on as long as they can and damaging the public’s right to use the beach.’
Reiterated California Coastal Commission Acting Executive Director John Ainsworth:
‘Malibu has some of the most beautiful stretches of the California coast and for the public to be robbed of any part of their beach is a serious violation of the Coastal Act,’
‘I hope this sends a message to other property owners thinking of blocking access that our commission takes this very seriously.’
Meanwhile, Simon and Daniel Mani, the owners of the Malibu Beach Inn, reached an ‘amicable’ $925,000 settlement for violating access to Carbon Beach – better known as ‘Billionaires’ Beach’.
The price reflects what it will cost the brothers to build two long-required stairways to the beach, install a signalized crosswalk near the hotel and fines that must be paid to a local conservation agency.
Public access to Malibu beaches remains an ongoing problem, with agency officials saying that 19 of 29 public easements remain closed.
Residents have gone as far as putting up fake ‘No Parking’ signs, painting curbs red and even hiring security guards to keep people away from the beaches.
Because rich people deserve their privacy and the brave new world that beckons them …