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.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Chance to Stand Up for Our Beaches

Thanks to this year's sand drop, a family is able to safely exit the beach.

Dear Surfriders and Friends,

There are a pair of opportunities this coming week to help with the efforts to restore the beach at Sloat and to preserve the beach at Sharp Park and other San Mateo County beaches:

A public meeting is being held on Monday 12/9/13 at the College of San Mateo
Meeting the Challenge of Sea Level Rise in San Mateo County
College of San Mateo Theater, Building 3, 
1700 W, Hillsdale Blvd., San Mateo.8:30am-12:30pm  
Here's a link to more info on the meeting - Help us remind policy makers that beach replenishment is not a silver bullet to solve all our erosion conflicts. Sea level rise and climate change driven storms will continue to erode many of our beaches despite attempts to replenish them. San Mateo County has a major case of beach loss in the northern section of Pacifica. The armoring of Sharp Park golf course is particularly troublesome  - and is chronicled in our previous blogposts. Then, there is the case of Half Moon Bay's Surfer's Beach and Martins Beach. If you can, please show up at this conference to lend a voice for long term planning based on managed retreat!

The other opportunity is the Wednesday 12/11/13 and Thursday 12/12/13,  It's a meeting of California Coastal Commission Meeting here in San Francisco - at the Radisson Hotel Fisherman's Wharf
250 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94133 8:00am - 9:00am

The Coastal Commission venue on Wednesday is excellent for bringing up the need for commission staff to work with our local officials to bring more near term actions for Sloat. As we have noted, the long term plan being designed through SPUR will take many years to finish. We really need to remove hazardous rubble from Sloat now. Additionally, we need to remind them of the importance of maintaining sand access to the water. 

On Thursday, the Commission will take public comment on a draft report they just released that offers guidelines on responding to sea level rise and the effects of climate change. Managed retreat is mentioned as a tool in the draft. It would be helpful to call for an increased commitment to managed retreat.

Thanks for staying engaged!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Some Modest Progress For Sloat - Update on Regional Armoring Threats

High Tide Access at Sloat 2nd Parking Lot

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

We have been in contact with folks from the SFPUC and the NPS regarding the current situation at Sloat, especially the need to enhance sand access at the south or 2nd parking lot.  The agencies understand our calls for improvements in the area, and some action has been taken.  For example, we confirmed that sand from clearing the lots has indeed been dropped over the side of the bluff to enhance access.  We also pointed out the dire need for trash cans in the area (animal/wind proof style), especially for second lot.  We are awaiting word on this as well as a general status update on the anchoring of the new dune with vegetation, and rubble removal/relocation.  Again, look for a public meeting regarding this near term work sometime this winter. When we get any news on the long term plan, it will be reported right away.

Sharp Park Update: We are still awaiting the Coastal Development Permit hearing for the "maintenance work" on the mud/quarry stone seawall in front of the lagoon.  Side Note: Back in July the Surfrider Foundation, along with Wild Equity and others were awarded attorney fees for the endangered species act lawsuit filed in 2011. We brought the ESA suit originally to force SF Park and Rec. to come up with a feasible management plan for the coastal property. While the case has resulted in a step forward for endangered species, the coastal area still lacks a sustainable management plan that includes preservation of the beach. On Thursday, November 21 (NEW DATE), there is an opportunity to help with the campaign. At 12 noon in City Hall Room 400, the SF Planning Commission will consider allowing an upgrade of the lagoon's pumping system to go forward without an environmental impact report. According to our partners at Wild Equity, the decision may be continued (postponed) until December 5, but public comment can still be registered on 11/21. We firmly believe the project has significant environmental impacts that should be documented and weighed into the decision. 

As many of you know, the pumping of the lagoon depends on the makeshift seawall on the beach. The two work together to create a fixed boundary for the lagoon which protects the golf course from flooding.  This engineered system not only impacts the area's native wildlife (which includes the state threatened Ca. Red Legged Frog and the federally endangered San Francisco Garter Snake); but it also impacts the sand supply to the beach.  In fact, the very existence of the beach in all of Pacifica is threatened by the use of seawalls. Erosion and beach loss is due to accelerate with the effects of sea level rise and climate change driven storms. Beaches need space to migrate inland if they are to survive.

Half Moon Bay Surfer's Beach: News just broke that Surfer's Beach is a long way from receiving sand replenishment from the harbor; yet Highway 1 is under severe threat that could mean additional rock armor at any time. San Mateo Surfriders are encouraged to get involved to protect their beach! See story:

Martins Beach Revetment: We are still awaiting a permit hearing on this from the Ca Coastal Commission. The landowner has until July 2014 to file. The good news is that Commission staff are well aware of the armoring and access issues at Martins. Add your comment in person for the public record at the December meeting of the Coastal Commission.  It will be held in San Francisco at Fisherman's Wharf on 12/11-12/12.  Mark your calendars!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

SPUR Updates San Francisco Surfrider on Master Plan Work for Sloat

Beach View at Sloat 2nd Lot:
It looks as though sand was dumped onto the rubble field this summer - probably from clearing the drifts in the parking lot. While modest, this kind of action is most welcome. The fisherman in the photo had a lot easier time reaching the water.

Dear Surfriders and Friends,

As promised, Ben Grant of the SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan presented at October’s chapter meeting. After providing a comprehensive overview of the OBMP, Mr. Grant filled us in on recent developments for Sloat. These included: efforts to stabilize the new sand bank in front of the north parking lot with a straw bale system; a proposal to relocate some of the rubble away from the Sloat shorebreak, the status of the Army Corps of Engineers’ quest to nourish Ocean Beach with dredged sand from the shipping channel; and a look at the studies being developed to test the Lake Merced Tunnel protection concept (as outlined in the Master Plan).

Perhaps the biggest news is that plans are moving forward to shrink the footprint of the Great Highway from Sloat to Skyline.  An SFMTA traffic study is underway that may result in the consolidation of this portion of the Great Highway into two lanes:  one northbound and one southbound lane. According to SPUR, the goal is to be able to relocate beach parking away from the water’s edge.  New parking would be available in the portions of the old southbound lane.  There will eventually be a public meeting on this and other projects, so stay tuned to provide input.  

In general, we applaud the work of the SPUR team and our City agencies in trying to solve the Sloat challenge.  Moving the road gradually away from the water is definitely a step in the right direction. It is part of the managed retreat solution to erosion that our chapter has been advocating for since the 1990s. For the very near term, we hope to see more sustained action with sand replenishment. Ideally, rubble clean-up and re-alignment would also be included as part of the same project. As we have posted before, the north pacific storm track keeps its own schedule.  That means a major winter storm can strike right at our coast with little notice. It would be a shame to see another emergency quarry stone revetment on our beach before the Master Plan work is finished. Please keep up the pressure with us! It all helps - whether sending letters to officials, attending pubic meetings or just spreading the word throughout the community.

Thanks for staying engaged.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Tale of Two Coastal Lagoons

Laguna Salada: Sharp Park's Coastal Lagoon and Beach: early 20th Century
(photo: PWA-Wild Equity Conceptual Restoration Plan and Feasibility Assessment, Laguna Salada, Pacifica, Ca)

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

Look for a fresh update on the Implementation Phase of the Ocean Beach Master Plan at our next chapter meeting Tuesday October 1st.  7pm at the Tides Center in the Presidio 1014 Torney Ave. In the meantime, here is some more information about our campaign to restore Sharp Park:

The Sharp Park golf course, located in Pacifica, is owned by the city of San Francisco.   It was built in the 1920's on land surrounding a coastal lagoon. Just like Lake Merced, Laguna Salada of Sharp Park is fed by creeks that drain runoff from nearby hills or mountains. During winters with heavy rainfall, these lagoons fill up to the point of spilling their excess water into the ocean. When the dry months of spring and summer set in, the water levels in the lagoon stabilize, the dunes regenerate, and the process begins anew. To learn more about these watersheds and how they work, download this scientific study of Laguna Salada.

At Sloat, we have a zoo, a large sewer tunnel, and a coastal road located right near the shoreline where Lake Merced used to spill into the ocean. Restoring Lake Merced back into a fully functioning lagoon is not on the table at this point in time. However, the restoration of Laguna Salada at Sharp Park is.  A plan has been drafted to close the golf course, give the land to the National Park Service, and incorporate the watershed into the GGNRA.  The Park Service has plans to vigorously restore the native flora, fauna and natural process of the lagoon system.  Surfrider backs this proposal because restoring the watershed means removing the seawall.  This would create long term beach preservation in an area that desperately needs it. We should seize the opportunity to restore Sharp Park.

You can learn more about the issue by visiting our partner's website  You can help today by writing a letter to our public officials (see column on the right).  Also, don't forget to comment on any media story regarding Sharp Park, Sloat, or other issues related to beach erosion and managed retreat.  Thanks for checking in!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Erosion of Our Nation's Coastlines: Surfrider Chapters Fight to Preserve Our Beaches

The Blight of Coastal Armor: Texas Gulf Coast  Photo: Ellis Pickett

According to Ellis, the degraded seawall in the photo is only the latest armoring scheme to protect these homes.The jagged remnants of the original seawall are now submerged somewhere out  in the surf zone. See Texas Chapter link.

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

While we await the next opportunity to press our case for restoring the Sloat and the Sharp Park area shoreline, we thought it would be a good time to check in on other erosion campaigns led by the Surfrider Foundation (see links below).

NEW! Martin's Beach at Half Moon Bay is now armored
Highway 1 Princeton / Half Moon Bay erosion/armoring/fill project
Goleta Beach armoring / managed retreat plan:
Ventura's C-Street (Surfer's Point) erosion / managed retreat project
Solana Beach and north county seawall / fill projects (San Diego County)

Gulf Coast:
Texas beach erosion, armor, and public access law

East Coast:
Jersey Shore beach fill and post-Sandy challenges:
Palm Beach Florida armoring and fill
Cocoa Beach post fill surf break monitoring

Nearly all the campaigns share a common story-line:

Shoreline development is built without respect for the consequences of long term erosion patterns.  When the surf zone eventually threatens such development, the first reaction is to place revetments or sea walls to be used as defense.  At a certain point, when the beaches become almost entirely submerged, sand nourishment projects are used.

Usually, the armoring and sand replenishment projects buy time, restoring the beaches for a limited period. However, eventually the sand and/or shoreline access disappears under the ever encroaching surfline. A crisis or emergency typically occurs when a large storm moves in, wipes out the beach, and brings a new round of damage to remaining structures.

As we know, this just reignites the cycle.  New, "improved" armoring/beach nourishment projects are built that end up with the same result - limited, short term success at high cost.  Unfortunately, more than a few of these armoring/nourishment sites have also threatened the quality of our surfbreaks.

We say it is time to update coastal zoning plans so as to spread the use of long term strategies based on managed retreat.  With long term planning that allows for shorelines to migrate inland, we can both preserve the integrity of our nation's coastlines and avoid a parade of expensive engineering projects.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

North Lot & Great Highway Re-Opened, Sand Realigned

Two surfers exit the water at Sloat's north lot area.
Let's replace that armor in the background with sand! Photo: B.McLaughlin

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

Now that the sand has been cleaned off the road, the Great Highway is open for traffic once again.  Also, the north parking lot has been cleared. The excess sand that was clogging the road and lot has been pushed back on the beach.  At Sloat, the sand was moved down near the tidal zone. The result is a more relaxed grade to the new sand access, making it is easier to traverse. We hope to hear word from the SPUR team soon about a method to stabilize the sand so that it mostly stays on the beach during wind episodes.

In other erosion news, the campaign to restore Sharp Park continues. As was last reported, we were successful in getting the latest round of armoring halted with intervention by the Coastal Commission. At a certain point, an "after the fact" permit for the maintenance project will come before The Commission for approval. This will be an extremely important event which will allow all of us an opportunity to provide input on the project. As always, feel free to provide input today. Besides a written submission to the Coastal Commission, it would also be helpful to write our city's Supervisors with a cc to SF Park and Recreation Department.  Please ask our officials to preserve the beach at Sharp Park through a full restoration plan for the watershed.

Thanks for staying engaged!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

North Lot / Great Highway Closed - Accretion Cycle Underway

Accretion Process Returns to Sloat
Dear Surfriders and Friends,

The spring winds have kicked back in after a short, but pleasant respite.  Although these onshores can be brutal, they are part of a natural process of sand build up or accretion that helps to restore our beach.

Unfortunately,one of the side effects of all the wind has been the closure of the Great Highway and the north (and now) southern parking lots.  So much sand has been blowing over the berm that we even have a closure of the southbound lanes of the Great Highway in front of the erosion area. Clearly, the new sand berm needs to be stabilized like the rest of the dunes along Ocean Beach.  A few weeks ago we contacted SFPUC, DPW and NPS about the issue.  They are aware of the problem and are working through the SPUR structure at identifying options such as dune planting. In the meantime, bulldozers will be doing the maintenance.  Look for work to begin when the winds subside...

In other news...  We have a special film screening to announce...

"Shored Up" a documentary about beach erosion, beach replenishment, sea level rise and climate change is coming to San Francisco. This one is right in our wheelhouse!

When: Saturday June 1st 4pm
Where: New People Cinema
1746 Post St (at Webster), SF

Shored Up leaves no sand grain unturned; every perspective is brought together to capture wisdom and ironic lessons as New Jersey and North Carolina grapple with accelerating sea level rise before and after Hurricane Sandy. It is a gripping tale about human nature and how we try to prevail over the tremendous forces of nature that can be episodic and terrifying at times, separated by long periods of seeming tranquility. The scenes shot during and after Hurricane Sandy remind us of that reality in a visceral way.

Shored Up portrays how all of us, even taxpayers who live far away from the U.S. East Coast, are a part of this story. At the heart of the film are the wise and insightful comments by surfers, artists, mayors, scientists, and coastal residents. Understanding the causes of sea level rise presents challenges for deciding long-term solutions while communities struggle with short-term “fixes” for coastal erosion and storm surges of today.

General festival info:

Join us for the 3rd San Francisco Green Film Festival, May 30-June 5, 2013 – the West Coast’s leading destination for groundbreaking and compelling films on the urgent environmental issues of our time.
This year’s festival presents 50 new films from around the globe, with over 70 visiting filmmakers and guest speakers who will cover urgent environmental topics including clean energy, green chemistry, food, housing, water, trash, and art in the environment. The festival will also feature special events, discussion panels, workshops, and educational programs, inviting festival attendees to get involved and take action with environmental causes important to them. The Festival’s Closing Night celebrations, June 5, 2013, take place on the United Nations’ World Environment Day. For this year’s full festival program please visit:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

New Update From SPUR on Sloat

Springtime comes to Sloat's north lot...

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

SPUR just sent out an email the other day with information on the implementation phase of the Ocean Beach Master Plan.  Of particular interest to our campaign is the progress being made to restore the beach at Sloat.  There is great news on this front: A short term / emergency strategy to use sand or sand bags (instead of dumping rock) is being hashed out by all key agencies.  As was mentioned in previous posts, this kind of interim planning will be critical if we are to avoid adding any more quarry stone to the beach while the long term plan is forged...  Thanks to SPUR, SFPUC, NPS, DPW and others for taking action on this.  Check it out the SPUR Master Plan update here for the whole scoop:

Meanwhile, early spring northwest winds did a number on the new sand berm at the north parking lot. See above pic...  Because there was no planting of the dune, sand was blown quite efficiently into the parking lot, closing it down for a week or so. Hopefully, we can find a way to solve this going forward.  Surely, there will be more windy days ahead of us!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sharp Park Armored Without Permits

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

We just issued a press release on the seawall project at Sharp Park (see below). The Coastal Commission did indeed find that the armoring of Sharp Park seawall should have went through their permitting process.  Maintenance work on the seawall has been ordered to a halt until SF Rec. and Park files the correct paperwork.  This will allow for public review and comment.

Surfrider San Francisco is concerned about this matter because of the cumulative effect of piecemeal armoring practices - whether called "maintenance projects" such as this case - or "erosion emergencies" which we have seen at Sloat.  Death by a thousand cuts is real and is happening to our beaches.

We hope to see a removal of the new rock fronting Sharp Park golf course with a plan put in place to restore the Laguna Salada watershed. Thanks to our partners at Wild Equity and staff from Surfrider National for helping us with this unfortunate development.


San Francisco Recreation and Parks Caught Illegally Armoring Sharp Park Beach

Surfrider Foundation Letter Triggers the California Coastal Commission to Act

on Unpermitted Armoring at Sharp Park in Pacifica
SAN FRANCISCO— In response to notification by The Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter, the California Coastal Commission determined that San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) illegally expanded the seawall in front of the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, in violation of California’s Coastal Act.
This armoring was unexpected because SFRPD’s Sharp Park Working Group announced in 2011 that “the seawall should not be further armored or heightened,” and because SFRPD’s public notice for the project stated that it would only grade the path on the seawall’s crown.

Unpermitted armoring of Sharp Park Beach by San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department, February 24, 2013.

“Much of the public’s beach in Pacifica is already buried under piles of boulders. Adding new armor to protect a nearby golf course is just not appropriate,” says Bill McLaughlin, who chairs the Erosion Committee of the Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter. “Sea level rise and long term coastal erosion patterns are a looming threat to all our regional coastlines. If beaches like Pacifica’s are to survive, shorelines need to be able to migrate landward.”
“Either SFRPD’s internal environmental review procedures failed, or SFRPD’s description of the project was misleading,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “In either case, we expect the Coastal Commission to ensure that the beach is preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
The Coastal Commission has now demanded that the City apply for an after-the-fact permit, which will come before the Coastal Commission at a future public hearing. Surfrider will work to ensure that the illegally dumped rip-rap is removed, and any future construction on the site is limited to grading the path at the top of the berm, and not an incremental armoring project of berm.

In late February, Surfrider learned that the seawall fronting Sharp Park Golf Couse would be closed for “renovation” from February 23-25. Surfrider was told by SFRPD that the renovation work would consist of re-grading a path on the crown of the berm. However, observations made at the site showed that additional boulders were placed on the beach. This new armoring was done without proper permitting or environmental review, which precluded the public from weighing in on the project.
The Surfrider Foundation is concerned about the cumulative impacts of coastal armoring on beaches throughout the region. Placing large boulders on a beach covers otherwise usable beach with rock, and the armoring tends to result in the loss of the beach due to erosion. The shoreline of Pacifica has already experienced extensive beach loss due to the effects of armoring.
This is not the first instance of unpermitted armoring by San Francisco. Back in July 2011, Surfrider went before the California Coastal Commission to argue against after-the-fact permitting of a rock wall at Ocean Beach. The powerful state agency unanimously rejected the project, in part because Commissioners believed an alternative to armoring known as managed retreat warranted serious consideration. Managed retreat is the landward relocation of development so that beaches have the space to migrate inland and to respond naturally to coastal processes.
Despite the predominance of coastal armoring in Pacifica, managed retreat has been successfully implemented here before. The San Pedro Creek area at Linda Mar State Beach is the site of such a project, which included restoration of beach, wetlands, and the estuary, as well as the relocation of commercial and residential infrastructure to more sustainable locations. Managed retreat is also part of the restoration vision advocated by Surfrider and others for Sharp Park Beach. The lack of critical infrastructure or development near the ocean make this site an ideal location to implement managed retreat.

For more information on shoreline armoring, please visit the Surfrider Foundation’s Beachapedia page.
For more information about the campaign for a better public park at Sharp Park, please visit


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Armoring at Sharp Park?

Photo Credit: Mary & Lazar Keitelman

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

While one of our city agencies is looking to turn away from armoring our coastline,  it seems another city department still thinks dumping rocks on a beach for erosion control is good practice.  

Last week, we got word that there was some maintenance being planned on the artificial berm fronting the Sharp Park Golf Course. When Surfrider checked in with SF Park and Rec. about the work, we were told the project would consist of regrading the surface due to it being scarred with ruts and potholes.  The seaside trail on top of the berm is popular with walkers and joggers.

Who would have thought "regrading" the surface meant adding more quarry stone armor to the beach?!!!  Needless to say, many a call has been made to the Coastal Commission about this project, which may not have been legally permitted.  Stay tuned for more details...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 Holds Promise for Sloat / Regional Beaches

Inside Bar Sloat With New Dune Access (photo B. McLaughlin)

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

2012 brought many positive developments for the Restore Sloat Campaign. In May, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association officially released the Ocean Beach Master Plan. Featured in the Master Plan was a proposal to restore the shoreline at Sloat-Funston Bluffs by using principles of managed retreat.

Meanwhile, this past summer, the City took a huge step away from reactive armoring and towards the proactive use of sand as a means to slow erosion at Sloat. Plans are being developed to continue the sand transfers on a temporary/need basis, as long as sand is available (in surplus) at the north end of the beach.

Yet, there is more good news.... Our neighbors to our south are also addressing their erosion issues. From Sharp Park to Mori Point, city leaders are coming together to plan for a future of eroding coastlines, the threat of rising sea levels, and powerful storms fueled by climate change. Under the Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan, long term strategies are being developed that will prioritize the maintenance of our southern beaches as a way to slow erosion. At Mussel Rock in Daly City, a feasibility study will explore the possibility of using a managed retreat plan to relocate the coastside landfill and restore the beach.

Stay tuned for new opportunities to weigh in on any and all of these efforts as more public meetings will be held in 2013.