Sloat Restoration through Managed Retreat

Sloat Restoration through Managed Retreat
This is our original vision for Sloat Restoration - graphic courtesy of PSA and Associates and the Ocean Beach Task Force

Our Vision of Beach Restoration and Preservation

The shorelines of Ocean Beach south of Sloat Blvd and Sharp Park in Pacifica are threatened by rip-rap seawallls and long-term erosion. This blog chronicles our campaign efforts to restore these beaches. Check out the web view of this site to see our proposed solutions and how to help- in the right hand column below. For all the latest about our efforts, see our monthly posts.

We advocate a managed retreat strategy to restore both Ocean Beach south of Sloat and Sharp Park.

At Sloat, our vision involves:

A long-term plan to relocate threatened infrastructure
(including the south of Sloat Great Highway, the two oceanside parking lots and the sewer lines underneath them).

The cleanup of all the rock and rubble littering the beach.

The use of sand dunes as the primary tool to slow erosion.

For Sharp Park, we advocate the decommissioning of the golf course, the removal of the rip-rap berm, and a full restoration of the wetland.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Coastal Commission Wrap-Up / SPUR Meeting Set

Season’s Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

Our appearance at the California Coastal Commission Meetings last week was a smashing success. We would like to thank everyone who took time to comment, whether by coming down to speak or by sending in a letter. By the way, we received well over 140 letters in support of our message to restrict rock armoring at Sloat, and to require clean-up of the rubble littering the beach. The Commission got a clear picture of what is happening down at Sloat, the basic issues involved, and our platform. It could not have gone any better.

We have more news: VERY IMPORTANT!

SPUR has just scheduled the first public workshop for determining a long term plan at Sloat this January 15th, 2011 9am-2pm at the SF Zoo Great Hall. Finally, everyone concerned about the armoring has a chance to be part of drafting a long term solution for the area. Officials from SFDPW, SFPUC, Park and Rec and others will be on hand to hear and discuss this issue as well as other matters involving Ocean Beach. We encourage everyone to attend and provide input. More details to follow.

Thanks again, and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SPUR Workshop Postponed / Coastal Commission Meeting In SF

Greetings fellow Surfriders and Friends,

News Update: The SPUR workshops originally scheduled for November have been postponed until sometime early next year. These are the government/public stakeholder workshops charged with drafting a recommendation to address erosion at Sloat. We will be sure to announce when we have the dates.

In the mean time, there is a huge opportunity for us to impact the state of the beach at Sloat: The California Coastal Commission, which oversees the permitting for any coastal development on the state's coastline, is having a meeting December 15, 16,, and 17th in San Francisco. There is an open public comment period every morning of these meetings. This is our chance to tell the commission what is happening at Sloat, how our beach is wiped away by erosion, and being replaced by rock and concrete rubble. Please be sure to check our action alert in the coming days. The Commission has the ability to force The City to take action and address many of the issues that concern us at Sloat: the loss of public recreation, degradation of safe access and the environmental impacts of armoring. We urge everyone to either show up at the Commission meetings to comment (public comment period opens 9-10am depending on the day), or, if unable to attend, to please write a fresh letter to the commission. Here is a link to write a letter: And here is more info on the meetings.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Southbound Lane Open

Also, Now Open: 2nd Parking Lot


For Immediate Release Contact: (415) 554-6931
October 15, 2010

Department completes Phase II of Emergency Repairs

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Department of Public Works (DPW) announced today the completion of Phase II of its emergency repair work along the Great Highway and the reopening of the roadway to southbound traffic south of Sloat in time for this evening’s commute. This stretch of the Great Highway was closed in December 2009 due to severe erosion.
DPW completed Phase I of the Great Highway Stabilization Project in April 2010, which included the construction of a 425-foot rock revetment on the beach to prevent further erosion of the bluffs. The department also removed 1,000 tons of debris from the beach during Phase I.
DPW has now realigned the roadway south of Sloat Boulevard and reduced it from two southbound lanes to one. The department also worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to reopen two parking lots at Sloat Boulevard.
Phase III of the emergency work includes addressing additional storm damage that threatens the public infrastructure along the entire 3,500-foot stretch of coastal bluff between the north parking lot and Fort Funston. Repair options are currently being reviewed by the National Park Service and the California Coastal Commission. .
In a separate process, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) is convening a multi-agency process to develop an Ocean Beach Master Plan. SPUR will work with community and agency stakeholders to create a vision of Ocean Beach as San Francisco’s next great public landscape, while recommending sustainable approaches to erosion and infrastructure in the context of sea-level rise and climate change. This 16-month effort is funded by grants from the California State Coastal Conservancy, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and the National Parks Service.

For more information about the Great Highway Stabilization Project , visit
DPW is responsible for the care and maintenance of San Francisco’s streets and much of its infrastructure. The department cleans and resurfaces streets; plants and maintains City street trees; designs, constructs and maintains city-owned facilities; inspects streets and sidewalks; constructs curb ramps; removes graffiti from public property; and partners with the diverse neighborhoods in San Francisco to provide stellar cleaning and greening services.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gearing up for SPUR Stakeholder Meetings

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR) is busy putting the final pieces together for the stakeholder process that will help bring a long term solution at Sloat. Dates are still TBA. In the meantime, DPW has provided technical reports on 2010 storm damage, and the options they are considering to complete the armoring project.

The agency, while still acting under emergency powers, will have to get approval from the California Coastal Commission for whatever plans they select. What we can do: Please continue to send letters to the California Coastal Commission asking the agency to minimize any additional armoring at Sloat, as well as for rubble removal and clean-up as mitigation.

In the meantime, below is a very informative article published back in June by George Wooding for the newsletter of San Francisco Tomorrow.

Winter storms and neglect devour The Great Highway at Ocean Beach

In January, Mayor Gavin Newsom declared a state of local emergency due to severe erosion which was causing parts of the Great Highway to slip into the ocean.
Yes, recent wind and rain storms eroded Ocean Beach, but this “emergency” was actually caused by years of City-deferred maintenance, inaction, and neglect. San
Francisco has long known that parts of the Great Highway — especially the 3,000-foot section between Sloat Boulevard and Fort Funston — face being permanently washed away. It’s embarrassing that City officials have once again been caught off guard by a known and often recurring problem. Isn’t this “déjà vu”?

San Francisco’s problems with Ocean Beach are manmade problems. San Francisco caused Ocean Beach’s beach-erosion problem by repeatedly increasing its size using landfill, and then building on the landfill. The current shoreline is a man-made extension. Between 1895 and the 1930’s the Ocean Beach shoreline was pushed at least two hundred feet seaward to promote urban development. Between the 1940’s and 1960’s, concrete debris, bricks, soil, and sand were used to increase the width of the beach and to form artificial bluffs. The City continued to increase the size of the beach through the 1980’s. The Pacific Ocean is now simply reclaiming the man-made beach and in-fill that has been extended into the Ocean.

The Real Problem

The City built the massive 16-year-old Lake Merced Sewage Pipe directly underneath (40 feet below) the Great Highway; it was completed in 1994 as part of the
San Francisco PUC’s $200 million Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant. The Highway and parking lots were built on landfill the Ocean is now reclaiming. While
the 14-foot-diameter pipe was tunneled in harder native materials at elevations below the adjacent beach, it was located very close to the Ocean, below the southbound lanes of the highway. After ocean waves tore into the bluff that supports the Great Highway, the sewage pipe was just 10 yards — barely 30 feet! — from the ocean’s edge. Over 10 million gallons of Westside raw sewage and wastewater flow through this pipe following rainy conditions. The pipe takes sewage to the Oceanside
Treatment Plant where it is partially treated and then pumped through an underwater pipe for release four miles out into the sea. As the shoreline recedes, there is
a very good chance that the Lake Merced Sewage Pipe will either end up buried under the ocean floor, or exposed to the ocean. Now the southbound lanes are closed, but Department of Public Works (DPW) hopes to re-open them sometime this summer.
Any rupture of the sewage pipe could cause a huge ecological disaster, involving millions of gallons of treated and effluent (partially-treated sewage) and liquid
waste pouring into the ocean and onto the fragile coastline. Earthquake-induced liquefaction to the area would pose another distinct threat.
According to DPW, some sections of ocean bluffs south of Sloat Boulevard have eroded by up to 70 feet just within the last year. The rock crown of the Southwest Ocean Outfall Pipe — part of the plant that discharges partially-treated wastewater four miles off shore into the Pacific Ocean — is also threatened by erosion. A 2009
report filed by the Pacific Institute shows San Francisco’s sea level rose eight inches during the last 100 years, but is expected to rise an additional four-and a-
half feet — yes, feet — by 2100 due to increases in ocean temperatures and melting ice sheets. Report calculations project that Northern California’s sandy dunes could retreat an average of 558 feet (186 yards) and cliffs could recede an average of 217 feet by 2100.

Higher sea levels, coupled with high tides and fierce storms, will cause storm waves to make increasingly deeper inroads into the receding shoreline. The City has responded to the latest Ocean Beach emergency by placing a 425-foot-long rock wall —
approximately 12,000 tons of rock — south of Sloat Boulevard below the San Francisco Zoo. This rock wall or revetment starts at the base of the eroded beach area and extends up the cliff’s face. Ideally, sand will be added on top of the rock to increase the width of the Bluff. The Army Corps of Engineers — the same folks involved with the New Orleans levees — is continuing to dump sand near the revetment changing the ocean’s littoral (sand transport) current, hoping to create a beach, but the “beach nourishment” approach is limited at this location because the Ocean’s littoral current is taking sand away from this section of shore. As the surrounding edge recedes, this divergent zone is aimed directly at the Great Highway and the Lake Merced Sewage Pipe. The effect is the same as aiming water from a hose directly onto pavement, 24/7.

This emergency Ocean Beach coastal armoring is a short-term, Band-Aid approach that will gradually fail. Coastal armoring can only be engineered to accommodate a certain storm size or rise in sea level, and at Ocean Beach would require regular monitoring and constant, expensive maintenance. Besides, armoring the edge is not as effective as a natural shoreline at dissipating the energy from waves and tides. As a result, armored shorelines are more vulnerable and cause increased erosion of adjacent beaches. In July 1999, the unanimous Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 698-99, prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the use of hard rock structures (such as rock revetment or seawalls) to stabilize conditions at Ocean Beach. The City’s emergency action this winter circumvented this Resolution and began expending funds on coastal armoring of Ocean Beach. The 1999 Board Resolution also called for a long-term plan to address erosion at Ocean Beach.

In 2002, Mayor Willie Brown’s Ocean Beach Task Force issued a Resolution supporting long-term solutions “through the planning partnership process.” The Mayor
took three years before establishing, in 2005, the Ocean Beach Vision Council charged with developing a 30- to 50-year plan for Ocean Beach. The Vision Council must be wearing very dark sunglasses, since it hasn’t even issued a draft report in the five years since being created. DPW and the Recreation and Park Department
(RPD) are currently working on a plan with the Army Corps of Engineers. No one knows how much of the RPD budget is funding the coastal armoring to protect City recreation and park land.

On April 19, 2010, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, with the support of Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, drafted a new Board Resolution requesting a “comprehensive planning
process be re-established to develop long-term solutions to the erosion problems at Ocean Beach.” All these attempts at long-term plans are either not drafted, completed, followed or implemented. Nothing changes except the eroding shoreline’s increased risk to the 14- foot-diameter Lake Merced Sewage Pipe and the Great
Highway above it, and risks to the Southwest Ocean Outfall Pipe.

Coastal experts are recommending a gradual surrender of the coastline to the Ocean. They believe that: 1)Infrastructure such as the Great Highway and the Lake Merced Sewage Pipe may have to be moved away from coastal erosion hazard zones; 2) Coastal armoring and structural measures should be minimized, with all armoring and rubble to be removed as soon as practical; 3) A sand management plan needs to be developed
where sand is placed to maintain the beach and dunes; 4) The natural ecology of Ocean Beach’s flora and fauna needs to be re-established; and 5) There should be
extensive Ocean Beach monitoring and adaptive management. This should become the template for the City’s long overdue Ocean Beach management plan.

As the sea rises, San Franciscans will be forced to decide: Should we adapt to the changing environment, or should we try to make it adapt to us? No matter what
we do, there will be consequences down the line. It’s time to decide the fate of Ocean Beach and San Francisco’s endangered infrastructure. San Francisco needs to immediately develop a realistic, long-term Ocean Beach management plan, before the 14-foot diameter sewage pipe and the Great Highway only 40 feet above it collapse under the weight of inaction. But by the time the City actually develops a long-term plan for Ocean Beach, we may all be up to our knees in sea water filled with effluvium (odorous waste matter).

Thanks to George Wooding, President of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our Letter to SFPUC

Dear Surfriders and Friends,

Below is our official comment submitted to SFPUC last week regarding the wastewater infraestructure at Sloat.

July 27, 2010

SF Public Utilities Commission
1155 Market St., 11th floor
San Francisco CA, 94103
ph: (415) 554-3155

RE: Item to be added to the 5 year CIP

Dear Commissioners,

Surfrider San Francisco, Save the Waves Coalition, and our engineering consultants at Phillip Williams and Associates would like to share with SFPUC our view of the Lake Merced Transport Tunnel in the south of Sloat area.

Since the mid 1990s, 3 significant and costly rock armoring projects have been installed in an effort to protect Sloat's wastewater infrastructure from coastal erosion. These projects may have worked temporarily to safeguard City assets, but ultimately the threat of erosion has continued - and is projected to continue.

The erosion problems in the South Sloat area have been going on for nearly 20 years, when the area was filled to create parking and the Great Highway Extension. Photographs and maps document that the Funston Bluffs, to the south, have been eroding since before the 1850’s, when the first scaled coast survey was accomplished. Combined with predicted rise in sea levels, we believe The City will add more rock or other armoring in the future. We believe this not within our collective interest. Expensive coastal armoring cannot permanently halt the advance of the Pacific Ocean. Eventually, infrastructure will have to be moved. We hope that SFPUC agrees with this view, and will thereby plan for a sustainable future – one that is consistent with State guidance on adaptation to sea level rise.

Presently, the beach in the South of Sloat area is an unmitigated disaster. Unearthed construction rubble covers the shoreline interspersed with the aforementioned rock armoring. Just over a decade ago, there was enough sandy beach in this area for people to enjoy putting out a towel, fishing, or flying a kite. Now, there is only a small sliver of sand left - one that is not safe to access, inappropriate for public recreation and ecologically degraded.

For these reasons, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Chapter and Save the Waves Coalition would like to recommend that PUC begin planning for a reconfiguration and/or re-routing of the Lake Merced Transport Tunnel at South Sloat: Our organizations suggest that such an initiative be included in the current Sewer System Master Plan's 5 Year CIP.

Thank you,


Bill McLaughlin
Erosion Committee
Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Chapter

Josh Berry
Environmental Director, Save the Waves Coalition

Bob Battalio, PE
Phillip Williams and Associates

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Important Workshop Coming this Tuesday

Hi Surfriders and Friends,

A very key PUC workshop is happening this Tuesday at SF City Hall:

The PUC is taking comment on what items should be in their 5 year Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) list for wastewater. Right now, there is nothing in their plans regarding the wastewater transport tunnel at Sloat. This is the tunnel that is driving the armoring in the area. Our chapter and friends at Save the Waves believe the transport tunnel needs to be relocated at some point in the near future to ensure restoration of the beach. We're hoping to rally as many of our supporters as possible to be there to tell the PUC that there needs to be planning for this project in their 5 Year CIP. We're asking SFPUC to recognize that the transport tunnel at Sloat is in an unsustainable location - and to make plans to remove/relocate it. The workshop is happening this coming Tuesday, July 27th City Hall Room 400 from 1-3:30pm. Anyone from the general public is welcome to attend and to provide comment.


SF Chapter Erosion Committee

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bank Swallows Now Nesting in the South Sloat Bluffs

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

DPW wanted us to help spread the word that the Bank Swallow (a Ca State threatened bird species) is now nesting in the South Sloat bluff area – above the new revetment - and that beach users should take care to avoid disturbing their habitat. DPW has cordoned off the area with orange construction fencing. Please access the beach further north of the new revetment

It is also important to note that the presence of the Bank Swallow is preventing DPW from working on Phase II of the emergency project - the stabilization of the bluffs and the re-opening of the southbound lanes. The Swallows should be finished nesting by sometime late this summer. Look for construction activity to commence sometime in September. Meanwhile, in other news, SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research) has one a grant from the State Coastal Conservancy and is now planning the government/public stakeholder meetings on crafting a long term solution for Sloat. Dates TBA. One more note; Please continue to inform the community about what's going on at Sloat. There are still many in our community that do not know what is going on down there, the issues at stake, the history, and the solutions on the table. Going forward, it is in everyone’s interest to have informed public participation at these meetings… Thanks!

Bill McLaughlin
San Francisco Chapter Erosion Committee

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ocean Beach Vision Council Meeting of May 6th Recap

The Ocean Beach Vision Council (OBVC) had a public meeting last week at the Janet Pomery Center behind the West Side wastewater plant. The approximately 30 attendees were about half public stakeholders, about half private citizens.

The Ocean Beach Vision Council was formed by Mayor Gavin Newsom consisting of many of the members of the previous Ocean Beach Task Force. Up to this point, the 10-member council has lacked funding, but a recent $300,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy combined with potential grants of $100,000 from the SF PUC and $10,000 from the National Park Service should help provide some much needed funding to kick start the efforts. The goal of the Vision Council is to develop long term plans for the Ocean Beach area, whether it be analogous to Crissy Field, or something new entirely.

Lara Truppelli of the Beach Chalet (and member of Ocean Beach Task Force, and now Ocean Beach Vision Council) moderated. Astrid Haryati, the Greening Director for the City of San Francisco, as well as District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkirimi provided some opening comments and well wishes for the Vision Council.

Gabe Metcalf, Ocean Beach Vision Council member and director of SPUR, gave some of the history of the Ocean Beach Task Force and the Ocean Beach Vision Council. He spoke that the new funding should provide for some pilot projects. He noted that sea level rise is one of the factors in the future of Ocean Beach. The OBVC does not yet have the Photoshopped rendering of their ideal vision; their plans are still very much in development.

Ed Reiskin, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public works (DPW), presented on the ongoing work south of Sloat. Phase I, toe stabilization, is largely completed. Phase II consists of stabilizing upper face of the bluff. DPW is analyzing alternatives to accomplish bluff stabilization, although a decsion is to be made within the next week. The front runner is the construction of a "sand nail" wall. This would consist of a row of steel pilings (scope to be determined) driven down into the bluff so as to sit in front of the burried Wastewater Tunnel for protection. The other determination still undecided was the road configuration. Previously, there were two lanes of traffic in each direction with a wide median that could be made into an emergency lane. The plan on page 6 of Ed's PowerPoint seems to show 2 southbound lanes, though during Q&A he indicated that pending approval from SFMTA, the DPW was leaning toward restoring one lane in each direction with the addition of a bicycle path. Ed also noted the scope of Phase II may be extended beyond the current revetment: south of the revetment and at the exit of the northern lot. Funding is coming from both State and Federal sources. Few details were presented on Phases III and IV; these are outside the Emergency Permit and fall more into the long term plan.

Since it is under an Emergency Declaration, the DPW could theoretically proceed without the mitigation on Phase I or the blessing of the SF MTA on Phase III. To the DPW's credit, it appears they are trying to work with the stake holders. Amongst the most inflexible stake holders are the Bank Swallow birds, whose seasonal colony in the Fort Funston area dictates aspects of the construction schedule (they are a CA state listed threatened species). Ed mentioned that while the DPW had initially intended to remove 2,000 tons of rubble during Phase I as remdiation, but DPW stopped at half that number in part to limit the schedule to avoid conflict with the Swallows.

In our opinion, rethinking the number of lanes of traffic is a big step forward. The amount of bluff required to support four lanes of traffic is quite larger than what is required to support two lanes. Two lanes could be placed over the stiffer, consolidated, semi-lithofied soils without nearly as much structure necessary to support fill.

Look for an update soon when construction details are finalized and/or stakeholder meeting dates are announced. Also, please continue to spread the news about this evolving issue. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Meeting Anouncement: DPW Update on Erosion/OB Vision Council

Dear Surfriders and Friends,

Hold the date: DPW will be giving the public an update on the construction project at Sloat on Thursday May 6th from 6:30-8:00pm at the Janet Pomeroy Center 207 Skyline Drive (enter at Herbst Road). All issues involving erosion are on the table, although the focus will be on the bluff stabilization phase of the project - which will include the new road configuration. Lara Truppelli of the Beach/Park Chalet will host the meeting as well as provide an update on the Ocean Beach Vision Council. Please spread the word!


Bill McLaughlin

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last Week's SF PUC CAC Meeting

Last week Bill and I attended a Citizenz Advisory Committee meeting for the SF PUC. The main topic on the agenda was our Sloat erosion, or from their point of view, the impact on the facilities for the Westside Treatment Plant. The main topics were presentations by Coastal Engineer Bob Battallio of PWC, Frank Filice of DPW, and a few comments on the PUC's handling of sea level rise by PUC engineer Jonathan Loiacono. I'll try to get a copy of those presentations and post the Power Points.

Bob presented first and went over some of this history of the area. One of his main points is that the area that eroded was largely unconsolidated fill placed after the construction of the Merced Tunnel, and that the natural shoreline fluctuated on multi-decade cycles. He showed some old photos of when that area was gently sloping grass-covered dunes, and contrasted them with photos of the area today, where steep bluffs are easily undermined. The contrast served to remind the audience that making even the nicest dunes in the area where the shoreline fluctuates will be washed away. He espoused relocating the waste water tunnels in the area.

Frank Filice updated the audience on the DPW's current construction and future plans. The rock revetment that is being constructed to stabalize the toe of the bluff is nearing completion. The cost is coming in at around $2.9M for about 425 ft of length. Much of those costs should be recoverable through California Emergency Management. Phase II of the project consists of stabilizing the top of the bluff, Phase III consists of reworking the Great Highway back a few dozen feet to about the current centerline of roadway. Phase IV consists of reconstructing the dune. He also spoke in detail about how the schedule is working around the Bank Swallows.

My impression is that DPW is glad to have made it through the winter storms and is now working on doing the real engineering work. Likewise, the PUC is becoming more active in the process as they realize the DPW's road may not be enough of a buffer to prevent the PUC from having to worry about erosion.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Construction Update

Photo by Les Martin

Construction of the new rock revetment is virtually complete. Bob Battalio has been in contact with DPW reviewing their plans, providing consulting and oversight of the construction project. Dpw is working through the National Park Service to get a permit to plug some of the smaller erosion hotspots with old concrete rubble already on the beach. We are also still awaiting verification that 2000 tons of the old construction rubble has been removed from the beach. Again, we are happy to see that at least some of the old construction debris is removed. However, it must be noted that we do feel that this amount is rather small - 2000 tons compared to an estimated 12,000 tons of rock contained in the new revetment. A more fair and just mitigation should involve at least a 1:1 ratio - an equal amount of rock removed for that which is added. We have asked DPW to look into doing a 1:1 removal, but they have declined, citing concerns from other stakeholders. In response, the Chapter and Save the Waves have drafted a letter to the Coastal Commission asking the agency to require a 1:1 rate. We are awaiting news on this petition.

This is where we are right now. The Save Sloat community would like to ask everyone to keep spreading the word around about the issue. It's clear that the City has built this infrastructure way too close to the ocean. Right now, we are on a path of total and complete armoring, a disaster for this stretch of beach. Please keep writing letters to key government officials. Ask for 1:1 rock removal, and a long term solution that avoids more armoring. Thanks for your support!

Bill McLaughlin
San Francisco Chapter Erosion Committee

Monday, February 22, 2010

Some Good News as the Construction Continues

Photo by Les Martin

Greetings fellow Surfriders and Friends,

First off, the Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter would like to thank all who came out and attended the Sloat fundraiser last Thursday at the Park Chalet. We raised well over a $1000 at the event which will help our efforts towards minimizing the scope and impact of the rock revetment as well as the development of a long term solution that protects the beach.

There is some good news to report on the construction project. The latest DPW planning document has the rock wall at about 400ft in length. This is less than half the size of the original proposal (900ft). Also, there is now a commitment from DPW to re-use a small amount of pre-existing debris to shore up certain sections that would otherwise have seen new boulders. Lastly, it looks like we have an agreement for DPW to remove at least 2000 tons of pre-existing construction debris. This is a positive development. We would like to thank and credit DPW for taking these measures to reduce the impact of project. We look forward to working together with this agency as well as other stakeholders at coming up with a long term plan. It won't be easy, but we do believe in a future at Sloat in which no additional rock is placed and a healthy, native beach profile is restored.

Bill McLaughlin, Erosion Committee

Friday, February 12, 2010

long-term solutions.

Bob Battalio is a big wave surfer and expert on the coastal processes at Ocean Beach. Bob has been working with SF Surfrider and Save the Waves to help educate the public and DPW on the best solution for the erosion at Sloat.

The following presentation was given by Bob at the Community Meeting at the Park Chalet a few weeks ago - it describes some of the history at Sloat and proposes a long-term design for the future (Slide 19). Slide 19 shows a drawing of what South of Sloat would look like with dune restoration and coastal retreat. Restoring the coastal dunes and condensing the Great Highway (two-lanes to one-lane) would allow for the beach to naturally retreat (but maybe not enough) along that section of the coastline - hopefully this would relieve some the coastal erosion problems.

We need a LONG-TERM erosion plan for OB and these are the type of design ideas that we would like to see proposed at OB - not rock walls and seawalls.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Site Check 2/11/09 Construction Has Begun

Photo Credit: Les Martin

Fellow Surfriders and Friends,

I went down and did a site check last night. It's not good. DPW has created a dirt access ramp for their trucks, cranes, etc. and have begun placing huge boulders on the bluff. The idea of using sand bags has been dismissed. Re-using existing rubble seems also to have been ruled out. A completely new rock revetment is going up.

It’s a tragic scene – and it’s not just the new project going in. Due to the recent erosion, there is more construction debris unearthed down there than ever before. With this additional section of boulders, we have essentially a complete armoring of the entire area - a wall of concrete, rubble and stone stretching all the way from 1st lot to the bluff.

What you can do...

Please continue to write letters to all parties involved. There are many agencies with jurisdiction over this issue from the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors to the DPW, PUC and GGNRA. Tell them that the beach in the south of Sloat area is on the verge of extinction. The City needs to acknowledge this, and change course. At the very least, in the near term, we should specifically call for the removal of old concrete debris as mitigation, a pull back of the road and parking lots, and restoration of natural dunes in the area.

Bill McLaughlin

Thursday, February 4, 2010

sandbags on the beach.

As you know, SF Surfrider and Save the Waves were pushing for the use of sandbags (technically called sand-filled geotextile tubes/bags) along Ocean Beach at Sloat Blvd. over a rock revetment. Though the use of geotextile bags may be common on some sections of America's coastline (ex. Texas and North Carolina) they are not that common in California.

On Surfrider Foundation's website page Coastal A-Z geotextile tubes are defined as "elongated cloth bags or tubes made out of plastic material that can be stacked or arranged as a form of semi-hard coastal engineering." These sandbags are HUGE HUGE bags that are filled with sand and placed along a eroding coastline or in the wave zone to build up an offshore berm (reduces wave action).

"Hard" structures are riprap revetments (rock on beach) and seallwalls. "Soft" sturctures includes beach nourishment and coastal retreat. The geotextile tubes are known in the coastal management world to be in between "hard" and "soft" structures - which leaves the use of geotextile tubes in a grey area.

Bottom line is: (1) in some cases, Surfrider Foundation Chapters around the nation are against the use of geotextile bags because sometimes the bags are SO big and the casing is SO thick that the very very durable sand-filled sacks will never leave the beach system - and often the bags are placed in the water as a groin (see Florida Suncoast Chapter's website) or as an artificial reef; (2) there is not that much information out there about using the geotextile bags for shoreline erosion control (send us info if you have it); (3) i have always been told that the "sandbags" can have the same effects as seawalls etc (but this is probably because sometimes cement is added to the sand inside the sandbags and create "concrete bags"); and (4) however, one obvious positive side to the use of sandbags is if they are designed right, they can be easier to remove from the beach than rocks.


North Carolina Beach.

Southern California Beach.

(1) One of the ONLY articles on Geotextile Bags: Coastal erosion prevention by geotextile tube technology by E.Shin and Y.Oh
(2) Info on Coastal Armoring (not including geotextile bags):
(3) website for a geotextile company with good photos:
(4) Info on shoreline armorning (looks like North Carolina allows sandbags as a tempory fix):
(5) Info on alternatives to shoreline armoring:
(6) Info on the use of geotextile tubes in Texas (Texas considers geotextile tubes to be "hard" sturcturs):

Please let me know if you have any other good information on the use of sandbags on the beach for coastal protection.

If the bags were to be used along Ocean Beach, SF Surfrider would only support them for temporary fixes. A long-term solution to the erosion problems at Ocean Beach is what is essential.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Board of Supervisor's Meeting 2/2 and Next Steps

San Francisco Surfrider would like to thank all those who have written letters and attended recent public meetings to comment on the Sloat erosion issue. Well over 700 letters were sent and dozens of people showed up to comment. At yesterday's Board of Supervisors meeting, the emergency declaration was given final approval. Unfortunately, the rock revetment will be built. However, Surfrider and Save the Waves were able to forge a compromise plan with the DPW to limit the scope of their work, as well as to analyze the possibility of removing existing rock as mitigation (see Next Steps below for more detail). The great thing is that it was made very clear to our Supervisors that the addition of rocks is not seen as a positive solution to the problem. Nearly everyone mentioned the need to find a long term solution that does a better job at protecting the beach, not just the infrastructure. Thanks again to everyone who weighed in. We have gained excellent momentum going forward as we tackle this problem.

The Next Steps:

As the construction is about to begin, the chapter is actively working to ensure that the DPW limits the scope of the new rock revetment to only the most critical areas needed to protect the Lake Merced Wastewater Tunnel. Also, we aim to ensure that DPW does a serious analysis of possible re-purposing old rubble to add to the project (with a goal of a decrease in net new rock) and/or remove existing concrete rubble and quarry stone from other nearby areas as mitigation (a possible scenario of zero net new rock).

Meanwhile, work has begun toward developing a stakeholder’s group (gov. non-profits, general public) that will craft a long term solution to this vexing problem. Stay tuned for more details on this and other issues by checking in with this blog!

Bill McLaughlin
SF Surfrider Erosion Committee

Monday, February 1, 2010

BOS meeting on Tuesday Feb 2, Item NO. 35

Last week the SF Board of Supervisors (BOS) declared an emergency at Sloat for one week and required the SF Department of Public Works (DPW) to come back on the Feb 2nd BOS meeting.

During the last week, SF Surfrider, Save the Waves, Lara Trupelli from the Ocean Beach Vision Council, DPW, Army Corps of Engineers, several scientific experts, Supervisor Mirkarimi and others discussed alternatives to the proposed short-term solution of placing rock along 900-feet of shoreline at Sloat.

The environmental and scientific community that have been involved for over 10 years with the coastal erosion issues at OB were encouraging the use of "soft" solutions such as beach nourishment, retreat and sandbags (though sand bags fall somewhere in between soft and hard structures).

The severity of the emergency and the fact that the structure involved is a sewer pipeline, the City's DPW does not seem to have many other options, both politically and financially, than to place rock for this emergency. This is the result of unsatisfactory long-term planning. Now Ocean Beach will pay the consequences.

SF Surfrider still prefers, supports and recommends the use of sandbags, beach nourishment and retreat -- but if ROCK has to be used to address this emergency, than the following should be applied:

(1) absolute minimum amount of rock is placed - and only in the areas of critical need.

(2) SF Surfrider advocates that the scope of work be defined - limited to only protecting the Lake Merced Transport Tunnel, NOT the Great Highway or the parking lots.

(3) if rock has to be placed on the beach, than we call for MITIGATION work by removing an equivalent amount of old construction debris from OB at Sloat (the old concrete, brick and road chunks)

(4) finally, we call for re-establishment of a government/community
stakeholder group with the goal of developing a sensible long-term plan for the coastal erosion problems at OB. The plan should recognize sea level rise, include the goal of preserving the BEACH as a top priority, and avoid further waste of public funds.

(5) encourage the discussion of "coastal retreat," relocating structures out of the way of coastal erosion. For example, it may be possible to move the Lake Merced Sewer Transport Box from its current area by constructing a new facility farther inland

(6) the City of SF should work with the California Coastal Commission to assure that they are in compliance with prior emergency permits and to update the local coastal program (LCP) for City of SF

(7) Ocean Beach is our national park beach and all activities should be consistent with the National Park Sevice/GGNRA.

Board of Supervisors Meeting
Tues. Feb 2nd, 2PM
Item #35
Civic Center
San Francisco

Safety Reminder - Please stay off the bluffs

DPW has asked me to pass along a safety reminder. Please give the bluffs, even the areas that have not yet fallen into the ocean, a healthy safety distance. I just read the book Death in Yosemite which dedicates a chapter to people falling off cliffs; let's keep in mind our human ability to eyeball safety is fairly flawed.

Independent of your own personal safety is the stability of the bluff itself. Walking on, around, and underneath the bluff disturbs the soil directly, and potentially of greater importance, the paths in which runoff flows. The rain and waves are already challenging enough for the delicate bluffs without the additional disturbances.

Please stay off the bluffs.

Friday, January 29, 2010

OB since 1972.

check out the California Coastline Website to see photos of the coast from 1972 to 2009. You can see the coastal armoring that has been added to the coast over time.

Here is a link to the coastline south of Sloat at OB:

Click on the dates to see old photos of OB --

OB at Sloat in 1972.

OB at Sloat in 1987.

OB at Sloat in 2009.

ALSO, checkout ROCK armoring in Santa Cruz and in Pacifica.

this website is amazing.

Between a rock and a hard place

Our fine feathered (Federally protected) friend, the snowy plover, perched atop some old rip rap below the north lot at Sloat during the morning high tide (and 20s period swell) on Jan 29. The lower photo comes from a historical plaque. In the sandy San Francisco of the 19th century, there was little distinction between the "beach" and "inland."

OB Taskforce Status Report 2005

The OB Taskforce met from 2000-2005. The meeting notes and summaries of the Taskforce recommendations are included in the OCEAN BEACH TASKFORCE STATUS REPORT.

The OB Taskforce analyzed the alternatives for controlling coastal erosion along Ocean Beach and determined that a long-term plan was essential -and- beach nourishment and coastal retreat should be the favored methods for controlling erosion at Sloat and other sections of OB....

click below to download doc:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

why putting rock on the beach is a bad idea.

"coastal armoring" [also called shoreline/coastal pr
otection structures and hard structures]

coastal armoring protects infrastructure (roads, houses, water treatment plants, parking lots...) NOT the beach from coastal erosion.

riprap revetments (engineered rock that is placed on the shoreline to protect property from coastal erosion) - example: rock proposed at Sloat Blvd.

Photo by Surfrider Foundation. Riprap revetment in southern California

and seawalls (vertical walls that are built in front of structures or along cliffs to stop coastal erosion) - example: O'Shaughnessy Seawall on northern OB

Photo. O'Shaughnessy Seawall in SF.

Photo by Surfrider Foundation. Seawall in Monterey.
coastal armoring can cause the following NEGATIVE impacts to the beach:
1. passive erosion - the rock or seawall cause additional coastal erosion to occur down-drift and on the edges of the structure.
2. placement loss - rocks placed on the beach cover the beach and at high tide can block lateral access on the beach.
3. active erosion- beaches can narrow due to changes in beach dynamics and wave reflection.
4. public access issues - rock can block beach access and cause dangerous conditions for beach users and surfers.


Surfrider Website -

Scientific NOAA document titled: The Impacts of Coastal Protection Structures in California's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

UCSC Professor Gary Griggs article on California's Eroding Shorelines

where exactly will DPW add rock at Sloat?

an approximate figure of proposed rock at Sloat.
produced by a local engineer (Louis)-thanks!
click here for a better copy of the file:

Please tell SF Supervisors to SAVE SLOAT.

Take Action to Protect Ocean Beach


Old ordinances and resolution.

Past SF Board of Supervisor ordinances and COE Resolution:

1999 BOS Ordinance – Required long-term plan to control erosion at OB

1999 BOS Ordinance – Declared Emergency at Sloat (no rock allowed)

2002 SF Commission of the Environment Resolution – Recommendations of the OB Taskforce

SF Surfrider Press Release.



Darin Rosas

SF Surfrider Chair


San Francisco, CA (January 22, 2010) – The San Francisco Surfrider Chapter (SF Surfrider) is calling for a long-term solution to the coastal erosion problems at Ocean Beach, SF, south of Sloat Blvd. This comes in response to a declaration of a coastal erosion emergency, by the SF Department of Public Works (DPW), along the shoreline south of Sloat Boulevard

On January 7th the southbound lane of the Great Highway, south of Sloat Boulevard was closed and, on January 21st, both southbound lanes were closed. On January 15th, the DPW announced a declaration of emergency along the Great Highway due to severely eroded bluffs on the west side of the road. Currently, most of the Great Highway from Lake Merced to Golden Gate Park is closed due to a storm. Only the bus turn-around at Sloat Boulevard is open.

In recent years, the DPW has used beach nourishment to control the coastal erosion issues at Sloat Boulevard. SF Surfrider understands the need for taking emergency action to protect the current infrastructure along the Great Highway, south of Sloat Boulevard. However, SF Surfrider feels that a long-term solution is overdue.

In 2001, the Ocean Beach Taskforce, created by Mayor Willie Brown, analyzed alternate solutions for coastal erosion issues at Ocean Beach. The Taskforce concluded that the best long-term solution was a combination of beach restoration, managed retreat, and infrastructure relocation. No official long-term policy was ever adopted or executed.

Surfrider Foundation advocates long-term solutions where coastal development is threatened and suggests the goal of maximizing beach access while minimizing impacts to the beach and its ecological integrity. Under no circumstances does SF Surfrider support the permanent installation of hard retention structures along the coastline. Such structures can temporarily protect existing coastline development but have no place in beach preservation or a healthy beach ecosystem.

A community meeting is being held on Monday, January 25th at 7pm at the Park Chalet (located behind the Beach Chalet at 1000 Great Highway in San Francisco) to discuss the proposed actions at Sloat Boulevard. 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


The Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Chapter
is a non-profit grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Now in its 26th year, the Surfrider Foundation has grown from a small group of dedicated surfers in Malibu, California to a global movement made up of over 50,000 members and 90 chapters worldwide. For more information visit us at


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Save the Waves Press Release.

Contact: Dean LaTourrette
Tel: 831-426-6169

"Save Sloat!" Campaign Wins Crucial Delay on Plan to Dump Rocks on Beach in San Francisco -

January 27, 2010, San Francisco, CA - Last night at the weekly board of supervisors meeting at San Francisco’s city hall, coastal advocates from Save The Waves and SF Surfrider joined local residents in a passionate debate with the Department of Public Works (DPW) and city supervisors over the use of giant rocks to “armor” the beach south of Sloat Boulevard at Ocean Beach.

Led by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who also serves on the California Coastal Commission, coastal advocates won a one-week delay of the dumping of rocks on the beach to shore up eroding bluffs and protect threatened city infrastructure, including the Great Highway and an underground sewer tunnel. Recent weather and heavy surf has eaten away at the bluffs to create the present emergency, yet the issue has been a sore point for city officials, residents and environmentalists for almost two decades. In 1999 the Ocean Beach Task Force, made up of local residents, community leaders, city agencies, and coastal engineering experts, was created to research and recommend long-term solutions to the erosion problem of the beach south of Sloat, but their task force findings and recommendations have been largely ignored by the City for over seven years. This inaction is partly responsible for the severe erosion problems and infrastructure risks that the City now faces.

San Francisco’s DPW is proposing a $2.6 million-dollar short-term solution to dump tons of large boulders on the beach that would be trucked in and dumped over the edge of the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard to protect the base of the bluffs from further erosion and wave action.

“We recognize that something needs to be done in the short-term, specifically to help protect the sewer tunnel,” says Dean LaTourrette, executive director of Save The Waves. “But continuing to throw rocks at the ocean in the hopes of changing Mother Nature simply doesn’t work – it’s a waste of time and money. Local recommendations have been repeatedly ignored and now the City wants taxpayers to pay the high financial and environmental price caused by their inaction. Long-term solutions based on a managed retreat strategy, including the relocation of at-risk infrastructure, as well as natural sand bluff restoration, must be initiated immediately.”

This week is crucial in the fight to save Sloat from rock armoring, and Save The Waves and SF Surfrider are now teaming up with the Ocean Beach Vision Council and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi to find a less harmful and more visionary solution to these coastal erosion problems. Stay tuned at and follow @SaveTheWaves on Twitter to see how you can help.

Save The Waves encourages members of the public to attend the board of supervisors meeting at 2pm next Tuesday, February 2 at San Francisco’s city hall to voice their support for the long-term vision and solutions to the erosion problem at Ocean Beach.

About Save The Waves Coalition: Save The Waves Coalition is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the coastal environment, with an emphasis on the surf zone, and educating the public about its value. Save The Waves is a 501(c)3 non-profit.

REPORT BACK: BOS meeting on 1.25.10

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (BOS) reviewed Item #53 Proclamation of Local Emergency at Ocean Beach (South of Sloat) at approximately 7:15PM last night. Yes, it was late and the BOS was tired but proved themselves to be professional and gave Item #53 its required attention.

A crew from the San Francisco Surfrider Foundation Chapter and Save the Waves Coalition, and Lara Trupelli, the Chair of the 2000-2005 OB Taskforce and the Ocean Beach Vision Council, spoke to the BOS regarding concerns with the short-term solutions that the SF Department of Public Works (DPW) has proposed. The DPW proposes the placement of riprap (rock) along 900-feet of Ocean Beach's shoreline (three football fields in length). The rock is proposed to protect the Great Highway from erosion and prevent additional coastal erosion around a sewage pipeline that is 40-feet under the Great Highway ---

BUT this rock WILL NOT protect Ocean Beach - it will degrade the beach and likely cause more erosion issues in the area.

Surfrider, Save the Waves and Ms. Trupelli spoke quickly (each person had two-minutes only) to express the issues with the current proposal and made suggestions for what the BOS could do. Ideas had been being thrown out all day: can the current emergency proclamation be amended to include clauses limiting the type of solution? Can the decision be postponed so that there is more time to evaluate other options?

The crew got up and professionally and heartfully explained that the coastal erosion issues had not been appropriately addressed over the last 10-years by the DPW and the OB Taskforce recommendations had not been fully incorporated into planning, and ROCKS ON THE BEACH would only cause additional problems. So it was suggested to the BOS to re-evaluate the option of using sandbags (this was one of the options that DPW evaluated) and not use hard structures. The crew encouraged the BOS to delay the decision so that more thought could go into the options.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarini led the discussion with the BOS and expressed concerns with the proposed short-term solution (thank you!!!). For clarity, the importance of the declaration of emergency by Mayor Newsom is that there is potential state funding available for reimbursement for "emergencies." So, obviously, the BOS did not want to mess with the City of SF getting additional funding - SF is BROKE.

So, in the end, it comes down to $. The City of SF has about 2M $ available to control the erosion at Sloat - just enough to fund the rock placement (the other options are more expensive). The BOS declared the situation an emergency and the DPW has to return next Tuesday for a follow-up hearing with the BOS. DPW has agreed not to start work until after they return to the BOS next week. This gives us ONE WEEK to do the following:

(1) Determine if the cost estimates are accurate for the proposed rock placement
(2) Determine cost estimates for sandbag placement (does the whole 900-feet of the shoreline really need to protected - or can we use sandbags in the most critical areas)
(3) Understand the existing permitting requirements at Sloat (what do past Coastal Commission permits require or prevent?)
(4) Get the BOS to give additional guidance to the DPW (based on the fact that past ordinances did not allow rock, a long-term strategy should be developed, and the recommendations of the OB Taskforce should be looked at!)

Last night the BOS realized that SLOAT erosion is a problem. This was an accomplishment!

More information to come...

or have expertise in the area
please email:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2005 Storm Damage Protection Project Report

So I went through the 2005 Storm Damage Protection Project Report for the USACE and SF DPW (thanks to DPW for the posting it) and it gives a better overview of the shore protection problem up to 2005. I summarized a few of my favorite points: points that may shed light on 2010’s problem, but I encourage you to download the report and skim it yourself.

My Favorites Points:

The description of the different interests involved: pulling apart the road, from the lots, from the outfall pipe, from the Merced Transport pipe, from the bluffs. An outline of the interests on page 2-26 was originally by the SF Parks and Recreation Dept in 2002. The public discussion in 2010 often lumps all the interests together so it becomes difficult to weigh the cost/benefit and scope of different solutions.

Figure 3-3 on page 53 of the *.pdf shows a diagram of the most recent rip rap placement (referred to as Emergency Quarrystone Revetment) between first and second lots.

Moffatt and Nichol’s 1995 description of the coastal morphology starting on page 3-13. It indicates the the south lot area’s sand source is derived largely from the bluffs, and goes over seasonal reversals based on the wave climate.

Just like today: USACE (and other by CH2M Hill) 1996 study included the scenario where the lots were eroded and the Merced Transport box was threatened. The summary of this report is brief, but the area of the 1996 study appears to be further north in way of the lots, rather than just south of the outfall pipe where is 2010’s problem is. It gives a 22% chance of damage to the Merced Transport box, but it’s unclear if that is on a “per year” or “per storm” or what the relevant time scale is once the roadside has been reached. See page 3-16.

CH2M Hill reports that the southern reaches show large fluctuations in the area of the shoreline on page 3-25, and subsequent plots by Moffatt and Nichol show very large fluctuations of the shoreline of up to 100 to 150 feet.

Comic relief: When discussing constraints of different alternatives on 4-15, it notes that gorillas displays aggressive behavior during noisy earthwork. It’s tough to imagine a project with more exotic constraints.

Preferred alternatives are identified by each stakeholder on page 5-6. In 2005, as in 2010, the DPW prefers a hard structure over other alternatives for its lower maintenance cost.

Quoting from the discussion of acceptable alternatives on page 5-8, “SFPUC could not support any of the options that would result in the loss of the traffic lanes and possible exposure or loss of cover to the Lake Merced Transport facilities. The north bound traffic lane is important to the SFPUC as a means of access to the Oceanside WPCP. The northbound lane is also important in case of emergency in order to have two means of egress out of the WPCP facility. There is also concern that if the cover on the Lake Merced Transport is reduced there could be issues with structural stability or buoyancy effects.” The 2010 discussion has focused on the DPW’s interests; I’m curious as to why the PUC did not bring their interests to the public debate when the northbound lanes first closed. (Perhaps PUC is satified with the alternate routes onto Harding Rd and Armory Way and no longer considers Great Highway critical.) In 2005, DPW needed anything besides “no action.”

A stakeholder agency workshop held in 2005 gave all the agencies a chance to look at various alternatives. The DPW’s acceptable solutions listed on 5-12 include nearshore sand placement (which was the strategy adopted) and hard structures on the existing (then existing?) shoreline, presumablely for their lower maintenance cost. The SFPUC was willing to try anything that did not involve facilitated retreat or doing nothing. Each agency’s conclusions are summarized in a chart on 5-15.

New DPW Website

Our first post on this blog highlighted the many stake holders with overlapping jurisdiction at Ocean Beach. The San Francisco Department of Public Works is responsible for the roadway at Great Highway, and to some degree, the Lake Merced waste water pipe carrying untreated water into the treatment plant and the outflow pipe that carries the treated water 4.5 miles out to sea. (I’m looking into the split of authority between the SF PUC and the SF DPW on the pipes.) Consequently, DPW is most worried about its infrastructure, and is keeping the public informed with its new website here.

San Francisco Wastewater System Map, Source:

At the public meeting last night, most of the diagrams showed the amount of erosion relative to the previous state of the beach. Visibly, anyone could see how the road was threatened as the guard rail hangs from the bluff. What was not visible, however, is how the critical infrastructure of the Lake Merced Transport pipe and the Southwest Ocean Outflow pipe are threatened. All structures structures rely on the support of the surrounding soils, not just the road. I think in a public forum, unseen subterranean pipes never get as much attention as the roads under our feet.

The new DPW website notes that 70 feet of soil have eroded from the beach. This is a troubling number from the perspective of the beach, but is less indicative of the effect on the structures. I’d rather hear that the pipe requires X feet of soil on either side, and this margin has been compromised (or is threatened) for Y length of the pipe. Many of the members of the public at the meeting seemed to be surprised to hear about the Lake Merced Transport Pipe, and there were more than a few questions about it. I’ll stay in contact with the DPW communications department to see what additional information they can provide.

UPDATE: DPW has updated their presentation from Tuesday night and posted it here to give a bit more infomation on the pipe. The new page contains another report by the US Army Corps of Engineers that contains a good overview of the state of the beach in 2005. I'll read through the new USACE report and point out some of the interesinting parts.

Tell the BOS what you think!!! some of our thoughts....

Surfrider SF supports the following:

  • As declared in 1999 resolutions, the use of hard structures as a short and/or long term solution to erosion should not be supported by the BOS. One possible option is to use sand-filled sacks or additional beach nourishment etc.
  • We need a detailed risk assessment and cost analysis on moving the sewer pipeline, which was placed very close to the cliff edge in the first place.
  • The DPW and SFPUC should evaluate long-term solutions like managed retreat and infrastructure relocation.
  • A long-term plan for dealing with OB erosion needs to be in place (for Sloat and the ENTIRE OB).
  • A new OB Taskforce or the OBVC needs to follow through and make sure the recommendations of the 1999-2005 OB Taskforce are met.

BOS today at 2PM.

Supervisor Chu adn Mirkarimi were both at last nights meeting and spoke out in support of finding a long-term solution for the coastal erosion problems and were in support of NOT using hard structures (like riprap rock or seawalls). As you can read below, these same issues came up ten years ago and the BOS passed resolutions that required the City of SF to address the coastal erosion and not use hard structures.

The BOS are meeting TODAY at the Civic Center in SF (as we speak) and will be reviewing the Sloat Resolution at 2PM (Item #53). It would be great to have people down there to support a resolution that restricts the use of hard structures (which is currently what the DPW is leaning towards) and encourages coming up with long-term solutions at Sloat.

You can watch the BOS meeting LIVE at:

Sloat is Item # 53 and should be on around 2PM TODAY.

Also, you can email comments to:

Community Meeting 1.25.09

Last night over 100 community members showed up to the Park Chalet to hear from the Department of Public Works and other experts about the coastal erosion issues and potential short-term and long-term solutions for the erosion at Sloat Blvd.

The meeting was introduced and run by Lara Trupelli, the owner of Park Chalet who also led the efforts of the 2000-2005 OB Taskforce and was appointed in 2007 by Mayor Gavin Newsom to be on the Ocean Beach Vision Council.

Frank Filice, the project manager from the Department of Public Works gave a short presentation on the proposed short-term solutions, which included three alternatives:
  • Beach Nourishment - placing sand directly on the beach to restore the dunes (this alternatives was the most expensive but had the least environmental damage)
  • Riprap Revetment - placing riprap (rocks) directly along the eroding shoreline to protect the road and sewer pipeline from the erosion (least expensive alternative with the most environmental damange). It was a little unclear how large of a structure they are proposing and how "temporary" the structure actually is.
  • Sandbag Placement-placing large sand bags along the shoreline. This alternative was not described in details.
The DPW favored the placement of riprap because it was the most feasible based on cost and time. The DPW is proposing the short-term solution and will follow up with long-term solutions.

Bob Battalio, a big-wave surfer, an engineer and OB expert from Phil William and Associates (PWA) gave a presentation that described the efforts and recommendations of the 2000-2005 OB Taskforce. The OB Taskforce met from 2000-2005 as a result of a Board of Supervisor Resolution that was passed in 1999 in response to major erosion at Sloat (ummm....sound familiar?). The OB Taskforce determined that the best way to deal with the erosion was to set up a long-term plan with a focus on coastal retreat (moving the Great Highway more landward) and beach nourishment.

Dean LaTourette, the Executive Director of Save the Waves and Bill McLaughlin, an active member of the SF Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation spoke in support of the importance of a long-term plan that includes coastal retreat and beach nourishment. In addition, both environmental groups oppose the use of riprap (rock!!) to protect the road (not the beach) from erosion.

Peter Mull, the project manager for OB from the Army Corps of Engineers described the current efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers. Basically, sand that is dredged from the main ship channel annually has been placed in the waves at Sloat Blvd. The problem is that MORE sand needs to be placed and the sand should be placed directly on the beach. However, the dredging ship called the Essayons is not equipped to pump sand from the ship to the beach. At the moment, the Essayons can only dump sand in the waves.

Ross Mirkarimi and Carmen Chu, San Francisco Supervisors both spoke in support of a long-term solution and were generally against using hard structures.

The community was very engaged and, at times, confused and passionate about the issues and how to solve this coastal erosion problem. Questions generally focused on the long-term solutions - how can we get sand on the beach? Can we move the sewer pipeline? what will happen to traffic if the road is rerouted?

BUT as the meeting was coming to an end, the discussion was brought back to the short-term solutions. There was discussion on if the sand bag option could work - but it was clear this option has not been evaluated enough. Also, several folks were pushing to hold off the Board of Supervisor vote until next week so that more information on the alternatives could be explored.

At the moment, the Board of Supervisors are voting TODAY on a resolution that will officially declare the coastal erosion issues at Sloat an EMERGENCY - this will give the DPW the go-ahead to do what it takes to control the problem. It is important that the Board of Supervisors understands the importance of beach preservation in the decisions and remember that these SAME issues were brought up ten years ago. Past resolutions from 1999 did not allow hard structures (riprap/rock) to control erosion (even in an emergency) so why shouldn't we listen to what we said in the past!?

The Board of Supervisor meeting is at the Civic Center TODAY - be there at 2PM to comment on Item #53.

BOS Meeting -

Related Articles:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

save sloat.

photo by sf surfrider


photo by sf surfrider

photo by sf surfrider

photo by sf surfrider

photo by k. riccitiello

photo by k. riccitiello

photo by k. riccitiello

photo by k. riccitiello

Friday, January 22, 2010

SF SURFRIDER press release.



Darin Rosas

SF Surfrider Chair


San Francisco, CA (January 22, 2010) – The San Francisco Surfrider Chapter (SF Surfrider) is calling for a long-term solution to the coastal erosion problems at Ocean Beach, SF, south of Sloat Blvd. This comes in response to a declaration of a coastal erosion emergency, by the SF Department of Public Works (DPW), along the shoreline south of Sloat Boulevard

On January 7th the southbound lane of the Great Highway, south of Sloat Boulevard was closed and, on January 21st, both southbound lanes were closed. On January 15th, the DPW announced a declaration of emergency along the Great Highway due to severely eroded bluffs on the west side of the road. Currently, most of the Great Highway from Lake Merced to Golden Gate Park is closed due to a storm. Only the bus turn-around at Sloat Boulevard is open.

In recent years, the DPW has used beach nourishment to control the coastal erosion issues at Sloat Boulevard. SF Surfrider understands the need for taking emergency action to protect the current infrastructure along the Great Highway, south of Sloat Boulevard. However, SF Surfrider feels that a long-term solution is overdue.

In 2001, the Ocean Beach Taskforce, created by Mayor Willie Brown, analyzed alternate solutions for coastal erosion issues at Ocean Beach. The Taskforce concluded that the best long-term solution was a combination of beach restoration, managed retreat, and infrastructure relocation. No official long-term policy was ever adopted or executed.

Surfrider Foundation advocates long-term solutions where coastal development is threatened and suggests the goal of maximizing beach access while minimizing impacts to the beach and its ecological integrity. Under no circumstances does SF Surfrider support the permanent installation of hard retention structures along the coastline. Such structures can temporarily protect existing coastline development but have no place in beach preservation or a healthy beach ecosystem.

A community meeting is being held on Monday, January 25th at 7pm at the Park Chalet (located behind the Beach Chalet at 1000 Great Highway in San Francisco) to discuss the proposed actions at Sloat Boulevard. 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


The Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Chapter
is a non-profit grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Now in its 26th year, the Surfrider Foundation has grown from a small group of dedicated surfers in Malibu, California to a global movement made up of over 50,000 members and 90 chapters worldwide. For more information visit us at