Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sharp Park Action Alert / Sloat LCP Re-Cap

The beach in front of Sharp Park Golf Course: under threat from coastal armor.


Seasons Greetings Surfriders,

Thanks to all who attended the LCP public workshop last month and/or have submitted comment letters. In the LCP process, Surfrider continues to advocate for 3 basic items:

1. Managed retreat of threatened infrastructure south of Sloat
2. The removal of rock and rubble from the shoreline
3. Sand dune replenishment to preserve the beach.

***Breaking News for the Restore Sharp Park Campaign***

Wild Equity, lead organization in the effort to restore the Sharp Park wetland, has just announced a pair of events this month.  

On December 15th at the San Francisco City Hall re: Planning/Rec and Park Commission Approval of the Sharp Park Golf Course Redevelopment Project's EIR. For more details on the hearing, see http://wildequity.org/events/3538.

We need people to show up to urge rejection of the golf course redevelopment plan.  By re-investing in the greens at Sharp Park, it will not be long before a seawall expansion project is proposed to protect the links from the surf.  

The other event is an education tour of the Sharp Park site on December 11. Come learn about the endemic flora and fauna of the Sharp Park wetland and hear about the campaign to restore the area.   See http://wildequity.org/events/3537 

At Sloat and Sharp Park, seawalls have wreaked enough havoc along our beaches.  Please attend the December 15th hearing and/or send in comment email letters to SF Planning at commissions.secretary@sfgov.org

Thanks for checking in!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

LCP Meeting Thursday 11-17-16

The south parking lot continues to erode.
Pic: Marc Swanson


We just received very late notice that there will be a public workshop tomorrow 11/17/16 for the LCP amendment for Sloat:

Meeting Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 
Place: SF Planning
1650 Mission Street, 4th Floor

This is a review of the draft version from SF Planning, which is now available for public review and comment.



See this link for meeting details, a copy of the draft LCP and more: http://sf-planning.org/local-coastal-program-amendment

If anyone is planning on attending, please RSVP SF Planning. 

Although this is not the decisive meeting, it is important that we deliver our message every step of the way.

Thanks for checking in!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Campaign Platform Update



Greetings Surfriders,

In order to support some of the outcomes we have gained from the Ocean Beach Master Plan, we have updated our campaign platform for Sloat and central Ocean Beach.  

Significant Changes: 

We want to clarify our position on managed retreat.  It should be done in 2 phases.

Phase 1: As soon as possible, consolidate the road south of Sloat down to two lanes.  Align the road in a straight north-south trajectory.  Locate both lanes on the landward portion of the bluff.

Build temporary parking should in the newly available space gained from road consolidation and realignment.

Phase 2:  Before committing to build the Ocean Beach Master Plan vision for the Lake Merced Tunnel; formally weigh the option of relocating or re-aligning the Lake Merced Tunnel and other vulnerable infrastructure (such as the pump station in-take pipes).

Once an infrastructure protection strategy is in place, re-route the road around the back of the zoo.  Remove all rock armor.  Build sand dunes to serve as the new erosion control device. 

Create new beach access parking nearby, but at a safe distance away from the erosion hazard area.

Emergency Erosion Response Due to Winter Storms


In the event of a major erosion event which threatens infrastructure,  any emergency armor placed on the beach should be removed before the following winter. Sand bags are preferred over quarry stone boulders for emergencies.

Please remember to be careful when accessing the water at Sloat!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Campaign Review: From the 1996 El Niño to the Current LCP Amendment

Surfrider continues to work to restore the shoreline at south Ocean Beach.


Greetings Surfriders,

It has now been 20 years since the 1996-1997 El Niño winter, an event which brought the first rock revetment onto the beach at Sloat.  Ever since that event, the Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter has been working to remove the rocks and to restore the beach.

We have participated in two government/public planning processes specially formed to solve the erosion problem: the Ocean Beach Task Force (1999-2005), and the Ocean Beach Master Plan (2011-2012).  We have attended countless meetings, submitted numerous official written comment letters, ran multiple petition campaigns, reached out to the media and the local community, and more. At all times, we have brought not just our complaints, but also a viable solution to our public officials. Our plan calls for the protection of infrastructure through relocation (known as managed retreat).  We seek to restore the back beach area to allow sand dunes -  not rock and debris - to serve as the primary tool to check erosion.

Today, we can finally say a solution is in sight.  Since the release of the 2012 Ocean Beach Master Plan, the city of San Francisco has officially begun to embrace a long term plan that may restore Sloat. The project is now being prepared for permitting, with a 2017 year end deadline for submission. To ensure the work is ultimately approved with a strong restoration component, we continue our advocacy campaign.  Currently, we are helping shape new zoning laws to allow a managed retreat based solution for the infrastructure at risk.

One word about the Ocean Beach Master Plan. Although we may differ over the fate of the Lake Merced Tunnel (see especially the prior 3 posts), the vast majority of the SPUR plan is excellent. The road and the two parking lots are to to be realigned from the erosion hazard area. A new biking and hiking trail connecting to Fort Funston is scheduled to be installed. Rock and rubble is to be eventually be removed from the shoreline, with sand dunes taking its place.  According to Ben Grant at San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR), some of these improvements could be implemented as soon as this year.

Please stay tuned and continue to spread the word!  Yes, Sloat is still a mess. However, after 20 years of decay, real plans to fix the area are on the table and moving through the bureaucracy.  Enjoy the fall surf season!  Please continue to be cautious when accessing the area.  As always, we will inform the community as soon as we get official word of any new developments.

Thanks!



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Argument for Relocating The Lake Merced Tunnel: Part III

Relocating the Lake Merced Tunnel could be well worth the trouble. The high tide line shown here will continue its march inland as the years go by. 
Photo: B. McLaughlin


Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

In our last two posts, we laid out the two core arguments in support of a study to relocate the Lake Merced Tunnel (LMT).  This month, we would like to address the Ocean Beach Master Plan's support of keeping the LMT on the beach. 

In section III-24 of the Ocean Beach Master Plan "Why Not Relocate the Lake Merced Tunnel Today," a series of arguments are made against a managed retreat plan for the Lake Merced Tunnel. They are summarized below, followed by our response:

Opportunity to Protect in Place

SPUR claims that the Lake Merced Tunnel can be protected in place (with the beach condition dramatically improved) for the next several decades.  This is characterized as a "win-win" approach for both infrastructure and environment/recreation.  Surfrider believes a strategic relocation of the tunnel would secure this asset for much longer.  If built with the future in mind, a LMT relocation could protect it for the rest of its lifespan.  Certainly, opening up more shoreline for restoration is better for recreation and the ecosystem.  It also could be a much more cost effective way to preserve the beach as more beach area would reduce the need for sand replenishment.

Environmental And Regulatory Challenges

Spur argues that relocating the Tunnel would bring significant regulatory complexities.  The suggestion seems to be that such changes would be burdensome. Given everything that is at stake, we believe such an effort would be worthwhile.

Cost

SPUR cites the high cost of re-configuring the structure.  Please see our June post.  The cost of relocating the Tunnel does not appear to be drastically higher than building a protective seawall. 

Limited Benefit

The OBMP states: "Relocating the Lake Merced Tunnel would allow the coastline to recede naturally through erosion, but only a short distance, as other structures, including the existing force mains and pump station, the Fleishhaker Pool building and the Oceanside Treatment Plant, lie immediately behind the tunnel, limiting the benefits of relocation or necessitating the relocation of additional elements relatively soon."  While it is true that the beach area left in front of the Oceanside Treatment Plant and Pumpstation/Force mains is short, the amount of shoreline that may need hard "back-up" protection is quite small compared to the entire shoreline area that would be needed to protect the Lake Merced Tunnel.  With sea level rise estimates and erosion projections continuing to rise, the LMT relocation issue could be a brilliant opportunity for SFPUC to begin mapping the future of other pieces of threatened infrastructure, not just the Lake Merced Tunnel. 

Pressing Needs

SPUR argues that SFPUC has many responsibilities around town that may take precedence over relocating the Lake Merced Tunnel.  We believe that an erosion threat to a wastewater plant's key infrastructure is quite serious.  As surfers, we understand the power of the ocean, It is unpredictable and destructive force should never be underestimated. The Sloat erosion challenge should command top level priority and resources. 

Thanks for staying engaged with us! 


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sea Level Rise Estimates Continue to Trend Upward


The south or 2nd Sloat parking lot is now closed due to erosion. Thankfully SPUR, SFMTA, and others are working on a temporary parking solution. Photo: B. McLaughlin 

Greetings Surfriders,

Last month, we went over the cost / benefit argument for re-locating the Lake Merced Tunnel (LMT).  Now we would like to cover the issue of sea level rise and climate change driven storm activity and how it informs our position on the LMT.

As you may know, estimates of future sea level rise and climate change effects are inexact, and are frequently changing. Climate deniers seize on the instability of forecasting studies to dismiss man-made climate change and sea level rise altogether. Meanwhile, those that accept the views of the scientific community understand that the models, while not uniform in their predictions, are consistent in one respect: they are trending higher. We need to prepare for even greater sea level rise and storm activity than previously thought.

This is significant.

Currently the Ocean Beach Master Plan document follows California state guidelines for sea level rise planning: 14" of sea level rise by 2150 and 55" by 2100.  The problem with these numbers is that they were set in 2010.  Since that year, several reports by leading climate scientists indicate that sea level is accelerating much faster than previous estimates. One high profile study recently published by former NASA scientist James Hansen, predicts that if we don't curb our carbon emissions we could be faced with 10 meters of sea level rise by 2100. That's 393.7 inches! The reasoning lies in the melting of the polar ice sheets.  They are melting a much greater rate than was previously known. Here is a link to a recent article published in the Washington Post that explains the issue. While estimates do vary, the common them is that coastal planners should be prepared for much higher sea levels than recent predictions. This means that Ocean Beach Master Plan's 2010 forecast data is all but certainly outdated and inadequate.

Surfrider believes the effects of climate change are a major reason why the City should seriously consider relocating the Lake Merced Tunnel. Preparing for the lower end of the forecast models is not smart given what is at stake. Greater climate change means stronger wave energy and erosion will visit our shorelines. If we move infrastructure away from the coast, we can remove it from the threat of storm damage while ensuring the preservation of our beaches.

The bottom line: It would be a tragedy to put all this money and time into a project at Sloat, only to watch it fail because the latest science was not factored into the design.





Friday, May 27, 2016

To Protect or Relocate the Lake Merced Tunnel...

The costs of rejecting managed retreat at Sloat just keep piling up.

Greetings Surfriders,

While we wait for the next public meeting for the Local Coastal Program revision for Ocean Beach, we would like to take this time to share with you more details regarding our position on the Lake Merced Tunnel (LMT).

Let's start with our main argument for a cost/benefit analysis.

The Ocean Beach Master Plan advocates that we spend nearly $100 million to protect the LMT where it is, right on the beach (http://www.spur.org/ocean-beach see VII-5 (pp. 154-155). Surfrider has suggested that we look into a plan to relocate the structure. Our reasoning is simple: Why leave such vital and sensitive infrastructure in an erosion hazard zone? By moving the LMT well inland, it can be safeguarded from erosion for a much longer time.  We would also gain a much better restoration project for the beach.

Cost:  Unfortunately, our city has cited cost before in rejecting managed retreat for Sloat. Back in 2005, the Ocean Beach Task Force, like the OBMP, recommended a managed retreat plan for the erosion. The Task Force proposal? Pull back the road and parking lots from the shoreline, and use sand dunes, not rock, to slow erosion. There is graphic of this proposal on the top right corner of the blog.

SFDPW rejected that proposal, stating that the high cost of managed retreat made the idea "infeasible."  It was never explained by the agency why and how it made this determination. Did SFDPW not have the funds or simply did not wish to spend / seek the funds for the project?

What we do know for sure is that in the ensuing years, at least $10 million was spent by the City on dumping more rock on the beach south of Sloat, repairing the Great Highway as it fell onto the beach and more enacting sand back-passing projects.  The two recent sand dunes (2012 and 2014) have just washed away.   Additionally,  significant taxpayer money was spent by the Army Corps of Engineers in their failed effort to replenish Sloat with dredge spoils.

What do know on the cost issue is that the City has a "planning level" cost estimate of an LMT relocation alternative.  A 2010 letter to the Coastal Commission cites LMT relocation at approximately $110 million.  The current Master Plan seawall is estimated to cost approximately $90 million. (Source See Page 11).  Based on these figures, there is probably not a huge difference in cost between these two options.  We do assert that, if done right, relocating the LMT will bring greater long term benefits both in regards to safeguarding the structure and preserving the beach.

It is time we had a full cost-benefit analysis between the two alternatives. It could turn out that relocating the LMT is not just good for the beach and the safety of the infrastructure; it could also be the superior economic option.

Thanks for staying engaged!