For years, Leucadian Doug Fiske has been pointing out that the City of Encinitas has the wrong spelling on one of its popular beaches — Beacon’s. Until now, his plea for historical accuracy has fallen on deaf ears.
Years ago, Fiske started doing research on Beacon’s when he found a 1963 "Surfing Guide of Southern California Beaches." It did not use the possessive "Beacon’s"; it was "Beacon Beach." He searched local museum records and even the state’s library in Sacramento.
His research showed the beach got its name from an aeronautic beacon mounted on the bluff, overlooking the ocean. Fiske found a 1939 aeronautical map showing seven such beacons in use from Dana Point to Point Loma. They flashed every ten seconds, as a navigational guide to airplanes.
1948 USGS topographical map
“It's not supposed to be Beacon’s,” says Fiske emphatically. “It's Beacon.” He shows me a 1948 USGS topographical map also indicating the name.
One of the city’s first acts upon incorporation in 1986 was to take beach control away from the state-park system and the County of San Diego. The city restored decades-old historic names used by surfers and the community. Encinitas State Beach was returned to Moonlight Beach, Leucadia State Beach was changed to Beacon’s, Stone Steps, and Grandview beaches.
Seacliff Roadside Park, then owned by the county, was returned to its historic name, one the Beach Boys referred to in their 1963 breakout hit "Surfin’ U.S.A." — Swami’s, named after the bluff-top temple of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda.
As a past editor of Surfer Magazine in the 1960s and '70s, Fiske believes he knows why the incorrect spelling happened. “When the city started asking, ‘What do you call this beach?’ the surfers would have just said 'Beacon’s.'" It's similar to Midwesterners adding an "s" to names of retailers, as in Walmarts or Targets.
Three years ago, Fiske showed his evidence to every councilperson, the city manager, and the city's director of Parks and Recreation. No action was taken by the city.
Deciding to try again, the July 29 issue of the Coast News published Fiske's community opinion piece in which he outlines the historical data and why the current name is incorrect.
I asked some locals if it mattered. “I don’t care, I just surf here,” said a Leucadian named Jeff. “But if that’s the name then, yes, it should be changed.”
Laurie found out about Fiske’s plight from a news article three years ago and supports his efforts. “It’s a historical fact. It should be 'Beacon,'” said Laurie.
Fiske finally may have sparked some official interest. He reported on August 1 that Encinitas councilwoman Lisa Shaffer emailed him to advise that she has placed the issue on the council’s August 17 agenda, at least to open discussion.
Fiske hopes that with some newer councilpersons, and a recently hired new city manager and Parks and Recreation director, the name will be changed.
“Unfortunately, the wrong name is already perpetrated,” says Fiske. “There’s a Leucadia trailer park and an apartment complex using the name 'Beacon’s.'”
1) Fiske’s research indicated that up until the 1930s, much of California’s beaches were in private hands, as was Moonlight Beach, and Swami’s below the Self-Realization Fellowship temple. The state, together with counties, started buying up, or condemning, private beaches, so that by the late 1970s, all 840 miles of California shoreline was open to the public.
2) “If the beacon is not turned on at night, do not turn on your own lights,” read the February 26, 1942, article in the Encinitas Coast Dispatch, discovered in Fiske’s research. Fearing an air or sea attack by the Japanese, the county’s lights-out ordinance followed the February 23 Japanese submarine attack on an oil field near Santa Barbara and the following night’s false alarm that caused massive panic in Los Angeles. Anti-aircraft guns blazed into night sky for hours in what became known as a weather balloon’s “attack on Los Angeles.”
3) Two of the concrete pilings on which the Leucadia beacon was mounted still exist at the site, on the bluff, in front of the far left side of the Beacon Beach parking lot.