Frequently Asked Questions

What lands are under the Commission's jurisdiction?

The lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction are primarily sovereign (the beds of tidal and navigable waters acquired at statehood in 1850) and school lands (lands granted by the United States to California in 1853 to support the public school system). More information on these types of lands can be found on the Land Types page. The Commission generally does not have management authority over lands owned by other state agencies or where schools are actually located. There are instances, however, where other state agencies or other property owners may own the fee title in land, but the Commission manages the mineral interests on behalf of the state.

How do I know if I need a lease from the Commission?

If you are planning on using or constructing any type of structure on lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction, or developing any resources or minerals located on, or otherwise occupying any lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction, a lease is likely necessary. The best course of action is to call or submit an inquiry to the Commission. The contact number for general leasing questions is 916.574.1940 and the contact number for mineral or resource leasing information is 562.590.5201.

Can I begin my project once I submit my lease application?

No. If it has been determined that your proposed project will be located on lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction, you may not begin your project until the Commission has approved your application and issued you a lease.

Is rent required, and if so, how is rent determined?

State law requires that the Commission charge rent or other consideration when it issues a lease. Rent or other consideration is determined in conformance with the Commission’s rent regulations. Please see our benchmarks for more information.

Are there any privately owned tidelands?

There are some privately owned tidelands in California. These include tidelands within Mexican land grants confirmed by the United States, certain Tideland Patents and Board of Tide Land Commissioner (BTLC) lots sold by the state in the 19th Century prior to legislation prohibiting such sales. Tideland Patents are generally found in bays such as Bolsa, Anaheim, Alamitos, San Pedro, Morro, San Francisco, San Pablo, Tomales, Humboldt Bay, and Arcata. The state retains a Public Trust Easement over unfilled BTLC lots and Tideland Patents.

How is navigability determined?

There are many definitions of navigability. For purposes of California law two primary categories exist. The first is that California became the owner of the beds of its tidal and navigable waterways upon becoming a state in 1850. The United States Supreme Court in 1842 stated “[T]he people of each State, based on principles of sovereignty, ‘hold the absolute right to all their navigable waters and the soils under them,” subject only to rights surrendered and powers granted by the Constitution to the Federal Government. Navigable, for purposes of sovereign or public trust lands, means that the waterway was, in its natural and ordinary condition, susceptible of use by customary modes of travel for commerce; and natural barriers are not considered an impediment to navigability if commercial traffic could pass the barrier in some fashion at some time during the year.

The second definition deals with the public’s right to use waters for navigation, regardless of the ownership of the lands over which the waters exist. California courts have defined this right as “members of the public have the right to navigate and to exercise the incidents of navigation in a lawful manner at any point below high water mark on waters of this state which are capable of being navigated by oar or motor-propelled small craft.”

This means that if a waterway is capable of being navigated in a raft, kayak, or canoe, the public has a right to navigate on those waters. This right to navigate does not include the right to trespass on private property along the waterway or to cross private lands uninvited in order to access the water. If you have questions concerning public rights of navigation, Commission staff is available to help answer your questions.

Can a city prevent me from going to the beach at night?

Sometimes; municipalities have police powers that are based on their responsibility to protect public health, safety, and welfare and they generally may place reasonable time, place, manner restrictions on public rights including access to beaches and waterways where such action is reasonable. On the coast, the California Coastal Commission reviews proposed ordinances that seek to limit access to ensure that these restrictions are no more restrictive than necessary.

How do I report a stranded or beached marine animal?

Stranded or beached marine animals, sometimes whales, occasionally wash up on beaches. This is a natural occurrence and there are several organizations equipped to respond. It is important to stay back from any marine mammal found on a beach. NOAA Fisheries maintains a list of contact information for reporting stranded marine mammals. More information is available from The Marine Mammal Center, including contact information for a specific region.

Who should I call if I see oil on the water?

Oil spills can be reported 24 hours a day seven days a week by calling 1.800.852.7550 or 1.800.OILS.911. Additional information about oil spill response can be found at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.