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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Untold Story Behind the Erosion Mess South of Sloat

A Hike Along the Beach South of Sloat

Dear Surfriders, Sloat Restorationists and Friends of Ocean Beach,

The Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Chapter is pleased to announce a new report: The Untold Story Behind the Erosion Mess South of Sloat

The roots of Sloat's erosion conflict reach back to the 1970s. The new report contains the full back story behind the issue. This is a history that appears to have been lost. It is now re-found. 

We would like to remind readers that virtually all public officials and personnel named in this report have moved on. Great progress is now being made to rectify the Sloat erosion mess. We would especially like to thank SPUR and the Ocean Beach Master Plan team, the California Coastal Commission, SFPUC, GGNRA and our elected officials for being willing to use managed retreat as part of the strategy for addressing Sloat erosion.

Please read this knowing that it is our hope that by knowing the history behind this issue, we can chart a new course for erosion management at Ocean Beach.  

However, in order to do so, the Surfrider Foundation maintains that it is essential that the City consider realigning the Lake Merced Tunnel inland, and out of the erosion hazard zone.  Additionally, it is imperative to implement an effective and accountable sand management plan.  With long term planning that includes managed retreat and proper sand maintenance, it is our hope that we can both fix the Sloat area while ensuring better management of future erosion hotspots along Ocean Beach.

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Wave of Good News

Fall conditions have returned to Ocean Beach.

Greetings Surfriders,

Great news! The permit for SF to use sand backpassing and emergency sandbags was accepted  by the Coastal Commission. Thanks to all who helped with this effort.  We can all breath a bit easier now as our winter storms begin to roll in.

In other news, SF Baykeeper has just won their appeal of the sand mining permits. As we have covered in previous posts, the permits would have allowed for more sand to be extracted from SF Bay than comes in, resulting in a net loss to the system. Thanks to SF Baykeeper for highlighting the connection between our bay-delta sand supply and its role in sustaining on our beaches!

Finally, the Coastal Regional Sediment Management Plan (CRSMP) has been re-booted.  As a reminder, the CRSMP is collecting information on coastal erosion hotspots from San Francisco down to Half Moon Bay, as well as possible response strategies.

There will be a public meeting Wednesday December 2, 6-8pm Pacifica Community Center 540 Crespi Drive.

Please come to the meeting if you can. We need help delivering the message that coastal armor and/or open ended beach replenishment are not sustainable solutions!  Please lend your support for the use of managed retreat for threatened development as well as watershed and shoreline restoration. For more info on the CRSMP see

Thanks for checking in!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Important Coastal Commission Hearing Next Week!

North Lot with sand back-pass project in the foreground. (pic Greg Gordon)

Greetings Sloat Restorationists,

The Coastal Commission hearing for the City's permit to use sand and/or sand bags as temporary erosion control at Sloat is set for Thursday November 5th.  The agenda item is 14B. Here is the Commission staff report Unfortunately, there is no way to know exactly when during the day this agenda item will be up for public comment - although it will probably be sometime before noon. Please arrive between 8am - 8:45am to fill our a speaker card in order to address the Commission.

Our position on the permit? We support the use of sand or sand bags for erosion emergencies until the long term plan is built. 

Ca Coastal Commission Meeting
Thursday November 5th
Oceano Resort Hotel
280 Capistrano Drive
Half Moon Bay, Ca 94019
Agenda Item 14B

If you can't make it, please send a printed/handwritten letter to the Commission that arrive by this Friday 10/30/15 - California Coastal Commission (written letters via regular mail)
North Central Coast District
45 Fremont Street Suite 2000
San Francisco, Ca 94105-2219

Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The 2010 El Niño: Five Years Later

The Calm Before the Storm: 
North parking lot summer scene with a south swell rolling in. 
Thanks to Surfrider activist Greg Gordon for submitting this pic.

As word of a major El Niño is upon us, residents of the City’s west side may recollect the last episode of 2010. That winter, a series of storms drove powerful waves into the base of the Great Highway south of Sloat. Coastal erosion was so severe that a piece of the road was undermined until it collapsed onto the beach. Luckily no one was hurt. Five years later, a fix for the Sloat erosion mess has been outlined in the Ocean Beach Master Plan. 

Led by SPUR, and forged with community input, a real long term solution for Sloat erosion is now making its way through the bureaucracy. As we have covered in this blog, the plan is to relocate the south of Sloat section of the Great Highway so that the beach can be restored. In order to protect the remaining infrastructure, sand dunes will replace the rock and concrete debris now littering the beach. A buried seawall may serve as the last line of defense for the wastewater plant and its supporting structures. We maintain that any kind of buried seawall should be re-aligned as far landward as possible.

The Ocean Beach Master Plan's design and other short term measures - such as sand stockpiling - are about to undergo review by the California Coastal Commission.    Look for public meetings on these issues soon. Better yet, send us your contact info and we will add you to our Sloat activist list.  Sign up at 

Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sand Stockpiling / Replenishment News

We will continue to advocate for new temporary parking south of Sloat.

Greetings Sloat Restorationists,

We have some great news to report:

Apparently, progress is being made to stockpile sand near SF zoo in case there is severe erosion south of Sloat this winter.  Given that we are expecting the return of the weather phenomenon known as El Niño; having plenty of sand ready for deployment is very important. The last thing we want to see are new quarry stone revetments added to the beach. Thanks to SPUR and SFPUC for working with the Coastal Commission to make this happen.

In other news, we have received word that the Army Corps of Engineers may now contract with private dredging companies in order to provide sand replenishment for Ocean Beach. This is welcome news, as private firms have ships already rigged to pump sand directly onshore. While sand replenishment is not in itself a viable solution, at least one large sand placement project will be needed south of Sloat if we are ever to remove all the rock, rubble and debris.  Stay tuned for more details...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Restore Sloat: Full Status Report Part II

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

Dear Surfriders and Friends,

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

Near Term/Interim Improvements

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

Outstanding Issues: 

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

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

Thanks for checking in!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Restore Sloat: Full Status Report

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

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Setbacks for Sloat and Sharp Park

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

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in!

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

An Opportunity to Help Us Restore Sharp Park

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

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

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

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

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

For more info, see

Saturday, March 14, 2015

BCDC Hearing: Help Preserve Sand Flow to Ocean Beach

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

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

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

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

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

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

Here's the meeting notice:

Here's more information from SF Baykeeper:

Thanks for checking in...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Restore Sharp Park Check-In

This protective berm threatens the beach at Sharp Park.

Greetings Surfriders and Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Sand Access at 2nd Lot

The new sand dune at 2nd parking lot

Greetings Sloat Restorationists,

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

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

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