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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