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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‘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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Reason 927 why my missus is awesome

March 30, 2009

From my wife’s blog, Dancing Hula in the Sunset:

OK, so 927th place out of 1086 is pretty close to coming in last but I still did it. I climbed 1197 steps in 27 minutes, 10 seconds.
I was super sweaty and stank a little but I did something I was only “pretty sure” I could do.

Read more here.


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


Observations on San Francisco’s November 2008 election, part 2

November 10, 2008

More good stuff from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association’s post-election analysis of the Nov. 4, 2008 election with Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting and David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics, plus a couple of my own comments (See part 1 of the observations here). This round includes Prop. 8, Chris Daly’s role as bogeyman, the next president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Ron Dudum’s future:

Prop. 8 aftermath. The victory of California Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment withdrawing the right to civil marriage from gay men and women, has been deconstructed a million ways to Sunday already. Various analysts have offered their opinions: Prop. 8 won because African-American voters are more conservative on social issues than the electorate at large, and they came out in great numbers to vote for Barack Obama; or Obama is partially to blame because he wasn’t vocal enough about opposing Prop. 8 (and he said he was personally opposed to gay marriage); or San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom didn’t campaign against it actively enough; or Newsom was too visible and became a negative factor; or the anti-8 campaign just screwed up by being fractured in the beginning and missing out on key fundraising opportunities.

Whatever the explanation, both Clemens and Latterman said that support for gay marriage seems to be increasing by about one percentage point per year, and they expected to see the issue on the ballot again.

Clemens said he believed that the next time gay marriage appears on the ballot, supporters of gay marriage won’t rely on a paid-media campaign of television ads and mailers. Instead, they’ll do something like what the Obama campaign did with its vast pool of volunteers. That is, the campaign will be fought in the field, with supporters of gay marriage (probably including as many straight supporters of gay marriage as they can find) going door to door and talking with individual voters.

Alex Clemens, David Latterman and Gabriel Metcalf discuss the outcomes of the Nov. 4, 2008 election at SPUR.

Alex Clemens, David Latterman and Gabriel Metcalf discuss the outcomes of the Nov. 4, 2008 election at SPUR.

My own guess about the fate of gay marriage in California is that the legal challenges to Prop. 8 will go on so long that a measure seeking to undo it will hit the ballot before all those challenges are resolved. If that’s within two years, I’d bet the new anti-8 proposition will lose, but in just a few years longer a subsequent proposition spelling out a constitutional right to civil marriage for gay men and women will win. After that, a few measures seeking to replicate Prop. 8 will come up, but will lose, before supporters decide to direct their money elsewhere.

Regarding the impact the victory of Prop. 8 may have on Newsom’s ambitions to be governor of California, Clemens said that while it may have a negative effect now, a few years down the line it may be good for Newsom to be seen as the father of gay marriage in California. “Four years from now,” said Clemens, “it will be a badge of honor.”

Daly done as a demon? District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly’s days as an effective bogeyman for opponents such as the Apartment Association, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and others seeking to bring the city’s moderate and conservative voters to the polls may be done, according to Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting and David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics.

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