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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‘Footloose’ on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach

December 21, 2009

San Francisco has a worldwide reputation as a wild, anything-goes town in which no form of debauchery or unbridled rumpus would be shocking. It is that, sometimes, but at other times the city has favored a prudish, conformist side that fastens its buttons a bit too tight. Would it surprise you to find that mere months before the Summer of Love, dozens of people trekked to City Hall to testify against allowing teenagers to dance at an Ocean Beach concert hall?

Poster advertising The Turtles in concert at Donovan's Reef, March 3 and 4, 1967.

Poster advertising The Turtles in concert at Donovan's Reef, March 3 and 4, 1967. Image from Rock Prosopography 101.

The Rock Prosopography 101 blog has a story of San Francisco when listening to music and dancing to it were two very different (and, in the view of some residents, dangerous) moral issues. Some of it, no doubt, will seem familiar to people concerned about the recent state crackdown on San Francisco nightclubs.

History is written by the winners, but sometimes the story of the losers can be more revealing. Most scholars of San Francisco rock music are at least generally aware of how the Fillmore battled with the City of San Francisco over various permits. San Francisco had a peculiar law left over from prohibition that required separate permits for presenting music and allowing dancing. In most cities, it was assumed that the right to present music implies the right for patrons to dance, but in San Francisco that was not the case. Apparently the original purpose was to discourage Speakeasies, but by the 1960s it had become a form of de facto bureaucratic control over San Francisco nightlife. …

It is informative to actually read the San Francisco Chronicle in 1967 and see how much pressure there was from younger people for the City to join the post-Prohibition era. One saga that received extensive play in the paper for months on end was an establishment called Donovan’s Reef, located at 2200 Great Highway (at Rivera), on the very Western edge of both San Francisco and North America. The venue had originally been called The Sea Breeze in the late 19th century, and then Roberts-At-The-Beach, after its proprietor, Shorty Roberts. It had not survived Prohibition very well, but had continued on as a sort of destination amusement palace and carnival. …

The Board Of Permit Appeals shot down every effort to allow a Dance Hall Permit for Donovan’s Reef. The club already had a Concert Permit, but patrons would be arrested if they danced. The strange tone of the article above, from the February 7, 1967 edition of the Chronicle, only makes sense if you understand that it is a sort of Ocean Beach replay of Footloose, arguing over the right to dance in public without police interference. After months of struggle, Donovan’s Reef had already opened, presenting rock bands but preventing patrons from dancing. Needless to say, it did not make for an ideal teenage experience.

Read the rest of the story at Rock Prosopography 101.

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S.F. Fire Department truck scores triple block

November 22, 2008

On Friday I saw a San Francisco Fire Department pickup truck simultaneously block a crosswalk, a wheelchair ramp and a fire hydrant. I’ve seen many city vehicles block one of these, but to see one score all three at once is pretty remarkable. The truck also had boxed in a silver pickup truck parked behind it.

There was a funeral for a police officer or firefighter at the church half a block away, and I’m sure that if there had been a fire requiring the hydrant, someone would have moved the truck without delay. But the truck was in the intersection of 40th Avenue and Ulloa Street, and the surrounding neighborhood has some of the most abundant parking in the whole city of San Francisco. Even when the church’s school is in session and there is an event at the church, it’s usually easy to find parking within two blocks.

There were no license plates on the truck, but I did get the VIN.

SFFD pickup blocking crosswalk, wheelchair ramp and hydrant

SFFD pickup blocking crosswalk, wheelchair ramp and hydrant

SF Fire pickup blocking crosswalk

SF Fire pickup blocking crosswalk