Coastal Access Program: Prescriptive Rights Program

What is a public prescriptive right of access?

Along the California coast the general public has historically used numerous coastal areas. Trails to the beach, informal parking areas, beaches, and bluff tops have provided recreational opportunities for hiking, picnicking, fishing, swimming, surfing, diving, viewing and nature study. California law provides that under certain conditions, long term public access across private property may result in the establishment of a permanent public easement. This is called a public prescriptive right of access.

The Coastal Public Access Program includes a prescriptive rights element whereby the Coastal Commission researches and inventories the historic public use of areas with the potential for significant public access benefits. Where research indicates that the public use is substantial enough to create potential prescriptive rights, the Attorney General's Office has the authority to proceed with the legal action necessary to protect those areas.

For a fuller description see Some Facts About Public Prescriptive Rights.

The Public’s Role in Preserving Prescriptive Rights

A prescriptive rights investigation includes documentary searches, on-site inspections and questionnaires and interviews. The most important source of evidence is from the public, persons familiar with the past and current uses of the property. The loss of historical access and recreational sites funnels a growing population into fewer and fewer areas and can reduce the range of uses as well. Public participation is critical to establishing the right to continued public use.

You can help in our research by reviewing the following list of access locations currently under study by the Commission. Please click to link to the graphics and questionnaires for individual sites.

If you have used any of these areas, please take a few moments to print, complete, sign and return the Questionnaire and Declaration to:

Linda Locklin
Coastal Access Program
California Coastal Commission
725 Front Street, Suite 300
Santa Cruz, California, 95060.

For more information or to receive hard copies of the questionnaires, please contact Linda Locklin at or 831-427-4875.

Access Locations Under Investigation

Please read Some Facts About Public Prescriptive Rights prior to filling out the questionnaire below.