Friday, July 24, 2015

Restore Sloat: Full Status Report Part II

Early morning low tide south of Sloat (Photo: B. McLaughlin)

Dear Surfriders and Friends,

Last month we examined the progress made towards implementing a long term solution for Sloat erosion.  Now we will examine the near term improvements as well as outstanding issues.


Near Term/Interim Improvements


  • Commitment by the City to avoid placing rocks on the beach in case of erosion emergencies. 
Perhaps this is the most important thing we have achieved for the immediate and interim term.  From now on, the use of sand or sandbags will be the primary strategy to prevent or respond to erosion emergencies. This is critical, since it will take several years before the long term erosion project is built. Also, el Niño storm energy is forecast to return this winter.
  • Two new sand dunes for each Sloat parking lot
Since the Ocean Beach Master Plan's release in 2012, SFPUC and GGNRA have cooperated in a joint project to build two sand dunes for each Sloat parking lot. The north dune has rebuilt a beach, which now is heavily used on nice weather days.  The south lot dune restores safe access to the water, a critical necessity that has been absent for many years. Although the dunes will eventually erode, they show commitment by our public agencies to address the erosion mess at Sloat.
  • SFMTA is moving ahead with plans to relocate the road and parking lots away from the water.
According to SFDPW's Oscar Gee, there will be a public workshop before the end of the year regarding the South of Sloat portion of the Great Highway.  The first phase is to consolidate the four lane road into one single northbound and southbound lane. The road would then be re-aligned along the eastern side of the bluff. Such a change will help alleviate the erosion threat to the road, while setting up the long term beach restoration / infrastructure protection plan. More details to come. We continue to advocate for new temporary parking for the southern parking lot. This project could allow that to happen. Stay tuned! 


Outstanding Issues: 


  • Rock and rubble cleared off of the beach 
Quarry stone and rubble still litter the beach south of Sloat.  Some of the material is submerged during most of the tidal cycle.  The debris is a hazard for surfers who enter and exit the ocean as well as to fishermen who wade in the surf zone. We have been advocating for immediate clean-up for many years.  The City has been reluctant to remove any of the debris since they consider it necessary protection for the wastewater infrastructure, namely the Lake Merced Tunnel.  The Coastal Commission wants any rubble removal to be part of a more comprehensive long term plan, filed within a coastal development permit.  Such a permit would is least a year or two away - at best - from being submitted and accepted. We will continue to press for more immediate action. In the meantime, please be careful of the submerged rock!
  • An environmentally safe solution to keep sand from blowing off the new temporary access dunes  
During springtime and early summer northwest wind conditions, sand from the newly constructed dunes has been blowing right back up onto the road and/or filling up the parking lots. This hampers vehicular access.  A low impact, temporary solution should be installed. It would be helpful to see this occur before next spring.
  • A commitment to replace the north parking lot with new parking near Sloat Boulevard and the Great Highway.  
Since it is clear that the north parking lot is in an unsustainable location, we need the SPUR team to ensure quality parking is built near the Sloat / Great Highway intersection, inland, and away from the water.  A plan that clearly outlines this solution should come forth.  Again, any proposal to expand interim/temporary parking for either lot would be helpful.
  • The retrofitting of the Army Corps of Engineers dredge ship Essayons
The Army Corps ship Essayons dredges the shipping channel yearly.  Retrofitting the vessel with a pump/pipe system would allow for sand to be placed directly onto the beach south of Sloat. This move is preferable to sand back passing since a large volume is dredged by the ship on a continual basis.  Having access to the dredge spoils would help ensure that a robust network of sand dunes is built, and then can serve as the main protective device for the wastewater plant and it supporting infrastructure. 

Finally, Surfrider would like to remind everyone that the most important piece of restoring Sloat involves a long term plan to relocate infrastructure. The beach at Sloat is locked into a long term pattern of erosion and needs more area to survive. Be relocating infrastructure, we reduce the erosion conflict, and provide a chance for the beach and its sand dunes to thrive.      

Thanks for checking in!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Restore Sloat: Full Status Report

Winter 2015, looking north from the 2nd Parking Lot (photo B. McLaughlin)

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

At a recent chapter meeting, someone unfamiliar with our efforts asked what we have accomplished so far in the campaign.  It was a great question.  The following is part one of a two part detailed report:

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Surfrider first got involved in the fight to restore Sloat during the mid-1990's. However, the latest chapter of the campaign began five years ago...

During the 2010 El Niño, the very southern portion of the Great Highway was so badly undermined by erosion that a piece of the road fell into the surf.  SFDPW declared an emergency which led to the construction of a massive rock revetment on the beach.  A year later, the same agency applied for a permit to build a seawall and revetment for the entire Sloat shoreline. The project would have covered up what remained of the sandy beach. We stopped this misguided plan at the July 2011 Coastal Commission meeting. Then, through participation in the SPUR led Ocean Beach Master Plan, we worked to forge an alternative vision for Sloat erosion.

Released in 2012, the Ocean Beach Master Plan (OBMP) charts a path to restore the beach at Sloat while adressing the City's need to protect its wastewater infrastructure. The cornerstone of the plan is the use of managed retreat or inland relocation for threatened development.  In the south of Sloat area, both the road and the parking lots will be moved away from the water. Rock and rubble can then be cleared off of the beach. The newly cleared space will allow for sand dune restoration. To protect the remaining wastewater infrastructure (ie: the Lake Merced Tunnel, a threatened wastewater pipe under the road), a low impact seawall is proposed.  Because the top of the wall will sit near sea level, it should remain buried under the sand.  This will allow wave run up to pass over the structure. Only during major erosion events does the seawall emerge from the beach to block the surf from damaging the Lake Merced Tunnel.

The City has been very supportive of the Master Plan vision. For example, SFPUC has funded the low pact seawall study; and is showing other positive signs to address the issue.  SFMTA is busy preparing to pull the road away from the water. The SF Planning Department is working with the Coastal Commission to certify the Sloat work into our local coastal planning document. Public meetings on these issues will be announced by the end of the year.

Estimated Timeline: The long term project for Sloat is expected to begin the permitting process by the end of 2016 with construction completed sometime near 2021.

Surfrider supports the Master Plan work thus far. We commend the City for working towards a more environmental and sustainable plan for Sloat erosion. However, we are not as enthusiastic about the seawall to protect the Lake Merced Tunnel. We do believe a relocation option for the tunnel should be formally weighed.

In summary, the City's acceptance of the Master Plan is the chief accomplishment of our campaign. Next month, we will examine some of the near term improvements we have secured, as well as other outstanding issues.


Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Setbacks for Sloat and Sharp Park

This is what is left of the beach to the north of Sharp Park golf course.

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

Last month our two beach preservation campaigns suffered setbacks. For Sharp Park, the Coastal Commission unanimously voted to approve the pumphouse renovation project. As we noted in prior posts, renovating the golf course and its infrastructure will eventually lead to an effort to enlarge the seawall.  Given the sorry stat of Pacifica's northern beaches, it is hard to understand the approval of this permit. Check out the photo above to see what is at stake. Suffice to say, we will continue to fight for beach preservation at Sharp Park.

On the Sloat front, we were dealt a loss over the vote on sand mining at the Bay Conservation and Development Commission meeting.  The agency approved the permits that will allow major sand extraction from SF Bay. The good news is that the Commission  is more fully aware of the scientific data showing a strong correlation between sand mining and the loss of sand coming out to our beaches. BCDC acted well in mandating a large pool of money to be used for additional research on this issue.

In summary, while both votes did not go our way, we did force decision-makers to consider the impacts of these projects on our beaches. Both agencies know that enhanced coastal erosion and sea level rise are coming our way; and that proactive steps will be needed to mitigate the damage. Superstorm Sandy has taught all of us that there is a a hefty price to pay for policies of denial, delay and half measures.  Rest assured, we'll keep working for sound decision making that protects our beaches.

Thanks for checking in!

Rodeo Lagoon in Marin: This what a restored Sharp Park wetland could look like.


Friday, April 3, 2015

An Opportunity to Help Us Restore Sharp Park

The beach and surf in front of Sharp Park Golf Course is at risk from coastal armor, natural erosion patterns and sea level rise.



Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

This month, the California Coastal Commission will consider a proposal to upgrade the water pumping system at the Sharp Park Golf Course.  As previously posted, Surfrider opposes any move to perpetuate the 18 hole course.  Maintaining the links at Sharp Park will eventually require the reinforcement of the seawall (see photo above).  Most of Pacifica's beaches are already submerged due to fixing the shoreline with boulder like seawalls (also known as revetments).  This practice needs to end.  Due to sea level rise, beaches will require space to migrate inland if they are to survive.

Places like Sharp Park are ideal sites to implement managed retreat. Sand replenishment for Pacifica's beaches is not a sustainable option. Let's close this golf course and return the land to the GGNRA.   Please join Surfrider, Wild Equity, Sierra Club SF, National Parks Conservation Association, and others to speak out against the pumphouse renovation project.

Date: Thursday April 16, 2015
Time: Permit will be heard sometime after 10AM. However, please show up between 8:30AM and 9AM to fill out a speaker card to ensure yourself a chance to speak.
Place: Marin County Board of Supervisors
3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 329
San Rafael, Ca 94903
415-407-3211

For more info, see http://www.coastal.ca.gov/mtgcurr.html


Saturday, March 14, 2015

BCDC Hearing: Help Preserve Sand Flow to Ocean Beach

Sand is essential to the fine surf we enjoy at Ocean Beach

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

As many of you know, sand coming out of our rivers and estuaries helps maintain our beaches and slows coastal erosion.  Because we have dammed our rivers, built levees and mined gravel over the last 150 plus years, the amount of sand flowing out of SF Bay is significantly less than it used to be. At some level, this effects erosion at Ocean Beach.  

SF Baykeeper has been the lead environmental group fighting to restrict sand mining in SF Bay. Presently, four companies are looking to gain permits that would drastically increase SF Bay sand mining.  If you are available, please attend/speak out against the permits at the BCDC hearing this Thursday March 19 at 1pm.  Email us at erosionob@gmail.com to coordinate.

The meeting location is the 2nd Floor of the Ferry Building, downtown San Francisco.

Our message: These permits will lead to a signifiant decrease in sand flow out to our beaches, thus spurring coastal erosion.  The USGS Paper cited in the press release link below backs up this claim:


Here's the meeting notice:

Here's more information from SF Baykeeper:

Thanks for checking in...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Restore Sharp Park Check-In

This protective berm threatens the beach at Sharp Park.


Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

While we await new developments at Sloat, we thought this would be a good time to check in on the effort to restore Sharp Park.

To recap, the campaign at Sharp Park involves a seawall like structure located on the beach in Pacifica. See photo above.  The rock and dirt berm protects a golf course from flooding when high surf washes ashore.

Just like at Sloat, the beach at Sharp Park is gradually eroding.  This means either the berm is removed or the beach will eventually become submerged. Much of Pacifica's beaches are already lost due to seawalls and rock revetments.

During February's lone winter storm, the golf course experienced major flooding.  This comes on the heels of zero inches of rainfall in January.  Clearly, the City is fighting an uphill battle in trying to safeguard a golf course on this land. Surfrider continues to support the proposal to abandon golf at Sharp Park and to bring this property into the GGNRA system.  By restoring the wetland system, we can remove the seawall and best preserve the beach.

Wild Equity is running a new letter writing campaign to SF Mayor Ed Lee. Please ask him to remove the berm and to restore the Sharp Park wetland and beach. Here's the link http://wildequity.org/alerts/257

One last thing...  Over a year ago, golf course management attempted to reinforce the seawall with more rock - all under the banner of "maintenance." As we reported in a prior post, the appropriate authorities were alerted, which stopped the work from completion. To finish the project legally, SF Rec. and Park was supposed to file for a permit/or permit exemption by last July.  The deadline past without a submission. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Sand Access at 2nd Lot

The new sand dune at 2nd parking lot

Greetings Sloat Restorationists,

The sand replenishment work at the south parking lot is complete. According to SFPUC 30,000 cubic yards of sand were used at a cost of $400,000.  Work to stabilize the sand from the wind is slated to occur in the near future.

The Surfrider Foundation would like to emphasize that the current project is not the long term, sustainable solution for Sloat area erosion.  That plan is currently under design by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR)’s Ocean Beach Master Plan.

However, the action will bring important benefits.  Chiefly, the sand will create temporary safe access to the beach for the southern parking lot.  Presently, the only way to get to the beach at the south lot is to scale down an eroding mixture of rock and concrete debris.  Temporary improvements such as this are welcome since it will be several years until a long term sustainable plan can be constructed.