Faux Private Property signs face fines

| July 3, 2014

Suppose you’re lucky enough to own beachfront property. While living there, enjoying the view, cooling breezes, and other various benefits of your ideal location, you witness random visitors trashing the area. They use the nearby public part of the beach as their own personal dumping grounds. They urinate freely and light bonfires dangerously close to your deck.

What would you do?

Your first thought might be to call the cops. But you can imagine how that might go. You’ll need to call over and over, so police can address each individual violation when it occurs. You’ll have to hope—ironically—that the violation continues long enough for police to catch them in the act. And when police arrive on scene, you’ll risk exposure to the criminals as the caller. After all, if people get in trouble for doing something near a certain piece of private property, it’s only logical for them to assume the property owner is the one who turned them in.

From Jason Eppink.

Not all “Private Property” signs are legal. From Jason Eppink.

So how else might you address this situation?

In California, some property owners have found a solution in signs. Fake signs, that is. They’re making their own rules and posting them to keep public visitors off the beach altogether.

Since that’s illegal, of course, they’re now facing major fines for taking the law into their own hands.

It’s interesting how much power a sign can wield. This image illustrating an article on the issue doesn’t provide the most convincing argument against the homeowners. Apparently phony as well as convincing, it still seems fair somehow that private property owners call the shots. Maybe it’s the sign’s no-nonsense language and “official” design.

On the other hand, if areas of a beach are public, it certainly can’t be fair to keep the public from accessing them. Why should private property owners get not only their private property to themselves, but everything else around it, too?

The fake signs aren’t such a bad idea. It may be only that the phony rules need adjustment. How about signs that prohibit littering and public urination and open fires within a certain distance from structures?  How about fines for real violations?

It’s likely those signs and fines are already in place. If so, they’re somehow failing to do the job.

Maybe it’s time to see if the fake signs and fake rules can do it better.

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Category: Property, Trespassing

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