Look for me at the Ocean Beach Bulletin

November 28, 2010

This blog is on hiatus for the foreseeable future. I’ve started the Ocean Beach Bulletin, a local news organization for San Francisco’s Ocean Beach and nearby neighborhoods. Look for local journalism from me and from other contributors at oceanbeachbulletin.com, facebook.com/oceanbeachbulletin, twitter.com/obbulletin and youtube.com/oceanbeachbulletin.

 


Is a rocky road ahead for Ocean Beach?

January 26, 2010

Opponents of plans to dump boulders along a badly eroded portion of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach could gain a week’s reprieve to propose alternative methods of protecting a threatened roadway and a major wastewater pipeline from erosion due to high surf and winter storms.

Although the city’s Department of Public works suggests installing a wall of rocks as an emergency measure to protect the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard and the pipeline that carries the treated sewage of western San Francisco out to sea, Supervisor Rossi Mirkarimi – also a member of the powerful California Coastal Commission – said “armoring and revetment are not a good idea.”

Opponents of the rock revetment plan are concerned that it would adversely affect both the environment and the suitability of the area for surfing, but at great expense and without providing a long-term solution to erosion and rising sea levels.

Mirkarimi also indicated he was willing to consider putting off a Board of Supervisors vote on an emergency declaration that would clear the way for swift work on installing the rocks, which some beach users fear will only create erosion on other parts of Ocean Beach.

“I’m OK with it being held off a week,” although he understands DPW’s sense of urgency in seeking to protect the pipeline, Mirkarimi said.

Mirkarimi’s statement went over well at a packed house of more than 100 surfers and neighbors Monday night at the Park Chalet restaurant.

What isn’t clear at this point is how many of Mirkarimi’s colleagues also would support delaying the vote to confirm the emergency declaration. In any case, the wastewater pipeline is such an important piece of city infrastructure that concerns about losing it will weigh heavily with the members of the Board of Supervisors.

Winter storms and high surf have chewed away at Ocean Beach south of Sloat Boulevard, destroying as much as 75 feet of the coastal bluff adjacent to the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant. The San Francisco Department of Public Works has declared an emergency because of the erosion, and on Tuesday the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on confirming the declaration.

Ocean Beach spans four San Francisco local electoral districts: Supervisor Eric Mar’s District 1, Supervisor Carmen Chu’s District 4 and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s District 7. In addition, District 5’s Mirkarimi is a regional representative on the Coastal Commission, which has wide-ranging jurisdiction over development on the California coast.

Beach Chalet owner Lara Truppelli offered to collect opinions on the fate of the southern part of Ocean Beach and pass them on to the appropriate governmental authorities. She is collecting input at oceanbeach@beachchalet.com.

To directly contact Mirkarimi and the San Francisco supervisors whose districts include parts of Ocean Beach:

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi: (415) 554-7630, Ross.Mirkarimi@sfgov.org

Supervisor Eric Mar: (415) 554-7410, Eric.L.Mar@sfgov.org

Supervisor Carmen Chu: (415) 554-7460, Carmen.Chu@sfgov.org

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd: (415) 554-6516, Sean.Elsbernd@sfgov.org

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Up close with Ocean Beach erosion

January 24, 2010

I went out to Ocean Beach this morning to see the current condition of the eroded bluff south of Sloat Boulevard. The parking lot at Sloat and the Great Highway was closed, as was the roadside parking area to the south.

Bicyclist examines Ocean Beach erosion

I have fished Ocean Beach for about 15 years, and I’m familiar with the ways winter storms and calmer summer waves can significantly rearrange the beach, sometimes moving vast amounts of sand in very little time. But I don’t remember ever seeing the sand this depleted. In fact, structures such as a metal-and-rock groin extending into the surf from the shore just off the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant are visible now, whereas they normally are completely buried in the sand.

One of the reasons the sand has disappeared from this area is clearly visible at low tide: There is a complex and large system of otherwise normal beach structures in htis area, with troughs moving large amounts of water along the shore, and rips pumping that water and suspended sand offshore.

Closed parking area near Oceanside water plant

Lara Truppelli of the Beach Chalet restaurant has called a meeting Monday evening to discuss the erosion. I’m curious to hear what the city and other agencies with jurisdiction over Ocean Beach, the Great Highway and the water treatment plant propose to do about the recent erosion and the long-term condition of that part of the beach.

Surfer climbing down eroded bluff to Ocean Beach

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Park Chalet to host meeting on Ocean Beach erosion

January 22, 2010

Following the closure of a portion of San Francisco’s Great Highway due to ocean erosion, users of Ocean Beach and neighborhood residents will have an opportunity to talk about the city’s plans to shore up the beach and protect the street and a nearby water-treatment system.

Ocean Beach erosion

A portion of San Francisco's Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard was closed to traffic in January after rainstorms and the Pacific Ocean ate away at an already eroded portion of Ocean Beach. Photo by Crescent Calimpong via Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco chapter.

A meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25 at Park Chalet, behind the Beach Chalet at 1000 Great Highway. The meeting will cover the erosion, potential methods to address it, and an official emergency declaration that could speed and simplify the process for implementng erosion-control measures.

According to the San Francisco chapter of the Surfrider Foundation:

The DPW Project Manager, Frank Filice will be there to discuss the emergency declaration, the short-term strategy, and a process for a long-term solution.

Everyone who has an interest in the preservation and the future of Ocean Beach is encouraged to attend. The emergency declaration will go before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for ratification the following day, Tuesday, January 26th. For questions or more information, please email the meeting organizer and Chair of the San Francisco Ocean Beach Vision Council: Lara Truppelli at Lara@beachchalet.com.

The Surfrider Foundation has established a blog dedicated to tracking news and information about erosion on Ocean Beach.

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Residents want alternatives studied in San Francisco aquifer plan

January 21, 2010

About 30 people braved the cold and rain Wednesday night to tell the San Francisco Planning Department what it should cover in an environmental study of a plan to pump millions of gallons of water per day from under the west side of the city.

The most common requests from speakers were for a clear explanation of alternatives to the Groundwater Supply Project, and for the city to lay out where an equivalent water supply would come from if the planned extraction of groundwater had to be interrupted or abandoned for any reason.

Joan Girardot asked planners to include clear alternatives to the GSP in the environmental study, including alternatives that would include not building the system at all. Girardot also asked for an assessment of the current state of the Westside Basin Aquifer, to act as a baseline reference against which to compare future impacts on the underground reservoir. In addition, she asked for the study to explain what measures the city would take to mitigate the inconvenience that neighborhood residents might experience during construction.

Dan Murphy of the Golden Gate Audubon Society asked planners to provide an “adaptive management plan” in case the pumping proved to have a negative effect on wildlife or the health of lakes connected to the aquifer.

The Planning Department will continue to collect written comments until Jan. 30.

More information about the Groundwater System Plan is available from the Planning Department (PDF).

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City plans new network of wells on west side of San Francisco

January 20, 2010

San Francisco is planning a groundwater well system that would draw millions of gallons a day from new and enlarged wells on the west side of the city, mixing the water with existing supplies for residents of western San Francisco to drink.

The proposed project is part of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s efforts to improve the safety and reliability of local water supplies.

WSIP_GSP_map

Proposed Groundwater System Project

Six wells are planned as part of the project, from Lake Merced in the south to the northern edge of Golden Gate Park. Some new wells would be dug, while others would be modified to boost their pumping capacity. In addition, pipelines would be laid under neighborhood streets to get water from the wells to the recently renovated Sunset Reservoir at Ortega Street and 24th Avenue.

Neighborhood residents and businesses can weigh in on what kinds of environmental impacts the city should study before it launches the well project, starting tonight at a meeting in Golden Gate Park.

The Planning Department will hold a “scoping meeting” on the San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Golden Gate Park Senior Center, 6101 Fulton St. at 37th Avenue. People will be able to tell the city what subjects it should study in its environmental-impact report on the project and how deep its analysis should be.

The department also will accept comments from the public in writing at the meeting or via mail, fax or email through Jan. 30.

More information about the San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project is available from the Planning Department (PDF).

Written comments should be sent to by mail to the San Francisco Planning Department, Attn: Bill Wycko, Environmental Review Officer, San Francisco Groundwater Supply Project Scoping Comments, 1650 Mission St., Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94103; by fax to (415) 558-6409; or by e-mail to jamie.dean@sfgov.org.

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Muffins or a sharpened toothbrush?

January 19, 2010

I had a great time at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco Jan. 18.  The highlight of the show for me was a hilarious bit of cognitive dissonance when I found a particularly cute — I would even call it “precious” — booth.

This booth apparently belonged to a Florida-based maker of food, um, stuff. I don’t know how to describe what they do, because I could look at a pantry full of their products and not see a single thing to eat. Lots of dips and mixes and things that probably end up being passed off in charity raffle baskets or something. But whatever. If they make money, then good for them.

What got me was that the company at this booth with cheery colors and charming little displays shares a name with a maximum-security California state prison notorious for housing inmates too violent and depraved to be allowed to mix with the gentler souls filling the bunks at other state prisons.

I don’t think anyone had told them about the prison, but when I saw the booth I laughed out loud.

So if someone mentions Pelican Bay, be sure to ask if they mean the outfit specializing in charming gingerbread cookie mixes, or the place where you go if you shank a prison guard in the neck.

By the by, I looked for my favorite captain’s cap-wearing company rep from last year’s show to no avail.

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