Beach Erosion Threatens Star-Studded Malibu

Beach erosion is threatening some of Malibu's most exclusive oceanfront property.. (Image credit: Cedric Weber /

Few places on Earth evoke the seaside glamour of Malibu, Calif., home to Hollywood stars and their multimillion-dollar beach homes.

But Mother Nature is apparently no fan of movies, and a big swath of exclusive Broad Beach in Malibu has eroded away due to severe winter storms and rising sea levels.

As a result, waves now threaten the foundations of showplace homes where Dustin Hoffman, Steven Spielberg, Goldie Hawn, Pierce Brosnan and other A-list celebrities live.

"As sea level rises, it's only going to get more challenging to figure how to deal with that," Charles Lester, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, told the Associated Press.

As an interim measure, residents of Broad Beach have constructed a rock wall and placed sandbags to stem the ocean's tide, according to the Los Angeles Times. But state officials have ordered a more permanent solution.

That solution hasn't been easy to find, and in the meantime, Broad Beach residents have spent millions of dollars on attorneys, engineers and environmental consultants, all in the hopes of protecting some of the priciest real estate on the West Coast.

Malibu is hardly the only place to suffer beach erosion in recent years. Coastal communities in New Jersey and New York are still reeling from the blow delivered in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, which devastated sea walls and sand dunes throughout the Northeast.

And over the past century, 70 percent of the beaches on the Hawaiian islands of Kauai, Oahu and Maui have experienced significant long-term beach erosion — in some cases, up to 6 feet (2 meters) each year — according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Hawaii.

Any solution to long-term beach erosion in Malibu will first have to overcome a Gordian knot of bureaucratic entanglements (as well as a bit of class warfare), according to the Daily Mail.

Nearby Manhattan Beach blocked a proposal to use sand from its shores, and the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors objected to plans that called for dredging sea-bottom sand from Dockweiler Beach, located near Los Angeles International Airport.

In 2005, Broad Beach's 108 residents took it upon themselves to hire heavy-equipment operators to haul several tons of sand from a nearby public beach and use it to construct a protective berm on their beach, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Howls of protest ensued, and the California Coastal Commission put a halt to the work, saying the unpermitted grading had harmed marine life and reduced the size of the public beach.

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Marc Lallanilla
Live Science Contributor
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at and a producer with His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.