Drawing the Line: Public and Private in America

Drawing a Line in the Sand Over River Rights

It says "editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent" and that "it is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent. It further explains that "private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. But this respect for privacy is subject to the code's public interest test.

So the protection is lifted if the report exposes crime or serious impropriety; protects public health and safety; or prevents the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation. Did any of that apply to the Brentwood Gazette "investigation"? In what way did it serve the public interest to expose the activities of consenting adults who were, by their nature, enjoying "a reasonable expectation of privacy"?

One possibility is that they were breaking the law.

Where should we draw the line between privacy and public interest? | Media | The Guardian

But even the police officer quoted in the story - Inspector Paul Wells - was uncertain about whether a breach of the law had occurred. He told the paper: He went on to talk about "associated risks with this sort of activity, both health and potentially criminal" adding: I can understand that, of course, but I cannot imagine anyone being prosecuted.

This kind of sexual party may offend many people's sense of morality, but where is the crime? What is lacking, and perhaps is beyond the scope of this book, is an examination of those political principles that have in the past stabilized American politics and that have given nearly everyone the sense that they had a skin in the game.

Drawing the Line

Stark is the author of two previous books on public and ethical topics. His latest book will provoke thought for anyone interested in community, public policy, and politics. This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer.

No fee was paid by the author for this review.

Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Earlier in the summer, a new flight of steps had opened, leading from Geoffrey's deck to the sand below. It wasn't very well marked, but this was the newest Coastal Access entry point. These are public steps and they lead to a beach, some of which also is public. Not everybody knows this, which is exactly how the residents of Escondido Beach like it.

In Oregon and Washington, beaches are public up to the vegetation line.

California's beaches belong to everyone, too, but the line is drawn along the mean tide line. That's usually about halfway between where the water is and the line of kelp left on the beach after the last high tide. In theory, a person could walk along the water for the length of California -- from the Oregon state line to the Mexican border -- without setting foot on private property.

Access Check

As a practical matter, though, some areas are too rocky, some are underwater, and others have been fenced off by private developers. To make things simple, California tends to draw the line between public and private this way: Wet sand is public beach, and dry sand is private property. But that rule of thumb doesn't take into account the myriad easements the Coastal Commission has won since it came into being during the mids.

They did it one permit at a time: Want to build a pool at your beachhouse? Let the public walk across your beach. Escondido Beach is a patchwork of easements now. Behind one person's house the dry sand may be public, while on either side of the house it isn't. The map looks like Mike Tyson's smile.

Public and Private in America

Show a security guard a map published by a consortium of conservancies and agencies, including the Coastal Commission, and he won't believe you. He'll ask for something with an official seal. And, as Schwartz says, "Obviously, you shouldn't have to carry around a big binder of legal documents. We had been on the beach maybe 10 minutes when the security guard spotted us. He'd just persuaded another party to pack up and leave. The guard stood out on the beach like a sore thumb, dressed in a white shirt, tie and black pants.

The top of his bald head was shiny with sweat. In his hand, he carried his lunch, a clipboard, and a cell phone. Faster than you can say "Beach Blanket Bingo," he was standing over us. I let my beach companion, who had official cred, do the talking. Schwartz had consulted in advance with the Coastal Commission staff and identified the public patches of beach using a map and aerial photographs.

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We had chosen our spot carefully, in front of a beach house with a swimming pool. According to the Coastal Commission, there's a "lateral easement" there, making that part of the beach public. Coastal Commission spokeswoman Noaki Schwartz explains that the map shows we are on a "lateral public access" and not private property, as the guard insists. This appeared to be news to the guard, who gave a long recitation of the wet sand, dry sand rule that seemed to favor the homeowners' point of view.

But the guard wanted to see something more official. And then he said he was going to have to call the police. It wasn't the Santa Monica police -- we were about 20 miles outside of Santa Monica's jurisdiction.

Privacy and the public right to know

In Drawing the Line, Andrew Stark takes a fresh and provocative look at how Americans Drawing the Line: Public and Private in America. Drawing the Line: Andrew Stark may only have intended, in "Drawing the Line", to discuss how Americans use concepts of public and private to.

Granted, they were wearing shorts and Clay was walking around in flip flops. They looked more like park rangers than the police.

But having to identify yourself to a cop is still unsettling enough to drain the fun out of a day at the beach. Giving them her business card was one thing, Schwartz said.