Ocean Beach, one of the gems of the San Francisco landscape, faces significant challenges. For the past two years, SPUR has led an extensive interagency and public process to develop the Ocean Beach Master Plan, a comprehensive vision to address sea level rise, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystems and improve public access.
The Ocean Beach Master Plan and Implementation Studies are made possible by the State Coastal Conservancy, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the National Park Service.
Benjamin Grant, Public Realm and Urban Design Program Manager, email@example.com
SPUR, working with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and a top-notch team of coastal and structural engineers, has completed a significant engineering study that validates the Ocean Beach Master Plan approach to coastal management. The plan's approach combines managed retreat, beach nourishment, and low-profile protection structures. At issue is severe coastal erosion that threatens the Lake Merced Tunnel, a key piece of the SFPUC's wastewater infrastructure. Portions of the tunnel are protected by emergency revetments (boulder embankments) but these are at odds with the Coastal Act and must eventually be removed. Key findings of the report include:
Coastal protection structures can and should address many objectives
This report stipulates that coastal protection measures at Ocean Beach should be designed to support coastal access, ecological and habitat functions, and aesthetics, in addition to protecting threatened infrastructure.
Coastal storms threaten a few locations now, more over time
A close analysis of coastal hazards break the area south of Sloat Boulevard into distinct "reaches" (sections of coastline) and looks at the exposure of each to coastal erosion, both today and over time as sea level rise sets in. It considers the distance between the bluff face and the Lake Merced Tunnel and also the presence of exposed rubble, boulder revetments, and native geology for a much more precise picture of the existing hazards.
A low-profile structure can installed from above, close to the Lake Merced Tunnel
Engineers created structural model of the Lake Merced Tunnel to figure out how much of a buffer it requires above and to the side to be safe. The goal was for protective structures to go as close to the tunnel as safely possible, to minimize disruption of coastal processes and access. The results support a structure that is installed from above, and would be invisible until exposed by erosion. Even then, it would be covered by sand much of the time, similar to the nearby Taraval seawall.
The Taraval seawall, just north of Sloat Boulevard, is a useful precedent for low-profile protection structures at Ocean Beach. Often invisible under the sand, it provides coastal protection with minimal impacts to coastal processes and beach access. Photo by Elena Vendebroek.
A phased approach could address key locations first, and proceed adaptively
Coastal protections are expensive and require complex capital planning, environmental review, and regulatory permitting. At the same time, major investments in a changing landscape are best made in phases, an "adaptive management" approach that allows coastal managers to learn from each step and intervene only as required. These factors (long lead times and nimble adaptation) are in tension and inform how the proposed measures would be phased. All at once? A small pilot? Somewhere in between? Two important criteria that will inform the phasing are 1) areas where the erosion hazard is acute and 2) areas where emergency revetments need to be removed to comply with the Coastal Act.
Existing boulder revetments can be removed
Once protective measures are in place, the emergency revetments at Ocean beach can be removed once and for all, improving habitat, beach access, and compliance with coastal regulations. The City has made clear its intention to do just that, and is working closely with the Coastal Commission to move this program forward.
ESA PWA - coastal process and hazard analysis
Moffatt and Nichol - coastal engineering
McMillen Jacobs and Associates - structural engineering
AGS, Inc - geotechnical engineering
Benjamin Grant, SPUR's Urban Design Policy Director, recently spoke with Sea Change Radio's host Alex Wise about the Ocean Beach Master Plan, and how it could serve as a template for other coastal cities. The discussion included retrofitting the sprawled areas of cities to develop a density-centered, walkable community structure that will reduce the general carbon footprint of urban areas, as well as the intention of the Ocean Beach Master Plan to reinvent Ocean Beach and reduce the impact of rising tides in the Bay Area.
Listen to the full interview here.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area lost two longtime leaders this month, both of whom were instrumental in the development of the Ocean Beach Master Plan.
Frank Dean, GGNRA Superintendent since 2009, will be heading up the Yosemite Conservancy, that park’s nonprofit partner. He has more than 30 years experience with the National Park Service, including stints at Sequoyah/King’s Canyon, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Point Reyes, and he served as Superintendent of Saratoga National Historical Park in NY and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
Frank emphasized park partnerships, strengthening GGNRA’s ties with the Presidio Trust, the Golden Gate Bridge District, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the City of San Francisco, among many others. He tackled the kinds of challenges faced by a multi-faceted urban park heavily used by a diverse and passionate public – historic preservation, transportation, and balancing access with environmental stewardship.
This approach made him a tremendous partner for SPUR’s work at Ocean Beach. He understood the delicate balance required to work with a variety of agencies and stakeholders in a constrained environment, while keeping sight of park stewardship. He also became a member of SPUR’s board, lending his perspective to a broader range of policy issues. Our loss will be Yosemite’s gain.
Nancy Hornor has been at GGNRA since 1980, and served as Planning Division Chief since 2000. She was instrumental in the planning processes for Crissy Field and Fort Baker, and was SPUR’s main point of contact for the Ocean Beach Master Plan. She has begun a well-deserved retirement and will be spending time with her young granddaughter.
Frank and Nancy both embody the best of public service. Both have a steady professionalism deeply leavened with warmth, humor, and quiet equanimity. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with new leadership, but they will have big shoes to fill.
Next up: getting to know Chris Lehnertz, the new GGNRA Superintendent.
Sand placement by the SF Public Utilities Commission acting as buffer to coastal erosion.
December’s drenching rain and big swells were the biggest thing to hit Ocean Beach for years. Fortunately, sand placement was already in process, providing a ‘sacrificial’ (i.e. temporary) buffer in the locations most vulnerable to erosion. About 25,000 cubic yards were placed this year, following on the success of similar efforts in 2012. One source of erosion that was in evidence: stormwater runoff, which isn’t properly drained at the bluff’s eroding edge, cutting through placed sand and bluff material. This will be an important design factor in the managed retreat process.
The sand placement, performed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in partnership with the National Park Service, is part of an approach to coastal erosion that emphasizes softer, reversible measures while long-term plans in the Ocean Beach Master Plan go through detailed engineering and regulatory review. A stormy start to the winter has been followed by a dry period, and the prospect of an El Niño pattern that could bring significantly more erosive storms remains uncertain.
Ocean Beach Coastal View
Local Coastal Programs (LCPs) are the land use plans that regulate the coastal zone as defined in the Coastal Act of 1976. San Francisco designed its own Local Coastal Program in 1984 to ensure the continued enjoyment of ocean views and open spaces for residents and visitors alike. LCPs are approved by the CA Coastal Commission and then adopted as part of a city's General Plan. The advent of climate-induced sea level rise gives the LCP a new urgency.
The San Francisco Planning Department recently secured $173,850 from the California Coastal Commission and the Ocean Protection Council to amend the Western Shoreline Area Plan (San Francisco's Local Coastal Program) to incorporate climate change and sea-level rise. The Planning Department will lead the Local Coastal Program amendment effort and, working closely with stakeholders, capitalize on the collaborative foundation built through the multi-stakeholder Ocean Beach Master Plan process, which culminated in the 2012 Ocean Beach Master Plan.
The Planning Department expects the planning process to commence in early 2015. The first year of the project will be dedicated to public engagement, with numerous public workshops and one-on-one meetings with stakeholders. The second year will focus on shepherding the draft amendments through the approvals process, which includes the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and the California Coastal Commission. This is important and much needed work to account for the significant changes along our coastline related to sea level rise and chart a path forward to the long-term management and protection of San Francisco’s coastal resources.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Mayor Ed Lee visited Ocean Beach on December 18th, 2014 to witness the impacts of rising seas on the San Francisco coastline.
On December 3rd, the city and county of San Francisco was recognized by the White House as one of 16 Climate Action Champion communities in the US. San Francisco has established aggressive climate and sustainability targets, which include improvements in energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, water, green infrastructure, and waste. The city aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2017, and 40 percent by 2025. Climate adaptation, like that envisioned in the Ocean Beach Master Plan, is also a key ingredient.
The proactive adaptation measures for Ocean Beach – including managed retreat, coastal protection, and environmental restoration -- have also garnered the attention of the Obama administration, most recently through a visit from Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell. She and Mayor Ed Lee were able to witness firsthand the state of erosion and the impacts of rising seas here in San Francisco, and made a call to action to mitigate climate change. In June, Mike Boots, acting chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality was briefed on the Ocean Beach Master Plan and visited the eroding shoreline. The visits highlight San Francisco's cutting-edge planning and policy on climate issues.
South Ocean Beach 1993-2012: Erosion will continue and likely worsen. San Francisco must adapt.
Thanks to all who stopped by our open space design workshop at the United Irish Cultural Center last night (9/24)! For those who didn’t make it or who want to refresh your memory, you can view the presentation boards below. The boards present information on proposed open space designs at both the North Reach, across from Golden Gate Park between Lincoln Way and Balboa Street, and the South Reach, along the Great Highway from Sloat to Skyline Blvd.
Please take a look at the workshop boards (in the pdf posted below) and download the feedback form to submit your comments to us by October 15, 2014:
- via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
- via mail: Ben Grant, SPUR, 654 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Once again thank you all for your interest and participation!
Please join us this Wednesday, September 17 from 6 – 8pm at the Park Chalet (1000 Great Highway) for updates on the Ocean Beach Master Plan, Sand Management and Seawall Repairs. In this town hall meeting, Supervisors Katy Tang and Eric Mar will discuss updates about the Ocean Beach Master Plan, and we will also hear from representatives of SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) on sand management plans for this Fall, from SPUR on Ocean Beach planning, and from the National Park Service (NPS) on upcoming repairs to the O’Shaughnessy Seawall and other issues.
Ocean Beach Town Hall
Wednesday, September 17, 6 - 8 pm
Park Chalet Restaurant
1000 Great Highway near John F. Kennedy Drive
Also, please mark your calendars for SPUR's public workshop on Wednesday, September 24th 6 - 8pm at the United Irish Cultural Center (2700 45th Ave) for a chance to provide feedback on our open space design for the Great Highway between Sloat and Skyline Blvds.
Open House attendees listen to presentations at SPUR's Ocean Beach Open House. Photo credit Shannon Fiala.
On Saturday May 10th, SPUR hosted a public update and open house about ongoing efforts to implement the Ocean Beach Master Plan. These include the Ocean Beach Coastal Management Framework, Ocean Beach Transportation Study, and Ocean Beach Open Space Design. Thanks very much to everyone who provided feedback on the Ocean Beach implementation projects. We were able to capture your valuable comments, ideas and remarks through the comment forms, boards and post-it notes at our Open House and also via email . For a complete compendium of public feedback, see photos from the open house here and check out the attachments below.
We received a lot of encouraging comments on the emerging ideas and solutions, and of course some concerns as well. The most popular comments were as follows:
Coastal Management Framework
• Support for the project direction, as summarized in this animated sequence
• Concern about costs of coastal protection measures
• Questions about the efficacy of the proposed structural measures
• Support for closing the Great Highway South of Sloat and providing a coastal trail
• Strong concern about providing additional parking on the Upper Great Highway,
particularly the likelihood of attracting more people and activity
• Mixed support and concern about narrowing the GH between Lincoln and Sloat
• Enthusiastic support for roundabouts, especially at Sloat and Skyline
• Support for reconfiguration of Sloat Boulevard to improve recreation, safety, and
• Desire for analysis showing traffic performance of recommended changes
• Desire for coastal access parking, especially during interim stages
Open Space Design
• Enthusiastic support for coastal trail south of Sloat Boulevard, and the improved
connection between open spaces
• Preference for ‘Scenario 2,’ the option emphasizing access and environmental
restoration over maximum parking south of Sloat
• Preference for natural materials in landscape design, including dark skies
• Support for bike parking
• Interest in temporary artwork, but not permanent installations
All your comments are valuable and much appreciated by the project teams. This feedback will help us refine our work in progress on the three Ocean Beach Implementation studies. Once again, thank you for your interest and active participation, and check back here for future project updates.
“This idea to plan for erosion events before they happen is a huge step forward - good job!”
“Remove the asphalt that is falling in the ocean.”
“Preserve Dark Skies!”
“Great! Would love to have connection to Fort Funston."
“NO MORE PARKING ON GREAT HIGHWAY…It is not necessary to further the goals of the OB Master Plan.”
“I like the consolidation of recreational activities to the safer side of the street near the Zoo.”
“Go for it - GO!!”
“This is a quiet village-like neighborhood, full of surfers, walkers, and joggers, many of whom know each other at least by face if not name. Parking areas and attendant services between Lincoln Way and Sloat (especially south of Noriega) will make this stretch a destination like Ocean Beach around Fulton.”
“The idea of the proposed roundabouts presents a masterful approach to solving the these chaotic intersections. Pure genius.”
Future flickers for Ocean Beach bonfires SF Bay News 02/9/2015
California braces for "storm of the decade" CBS News, 12/9/2014
Why S.F. is moving 42,000 tons of sand down Ocean Beach SF Gate, 12/5/2014
San Francisco, Sonoma recognized by White House for Climate Action SF Gate, 12/3/2014
White House checks out S.F.'s plan to Save Ocean Beach SF Chronicle, 6/20/14
San Franciscans in the Dark about Flood Hazards Climate Central, 06/20/14
SPUR's Plans for Ocean Beach Get Refined and Rendered Curbed, 06/06/14
Taking Action on Sea Level Rise SPUR, 04/10/14
San Francisco plans expensive ‘managed retreat’ from rising seas Grist, 02/04/13
Ocean Beach Master Plan Envisions Big Changes SF Public Press, 02/04/13
San Francisco a Test Case for Coping with Rising Seas KQED, 02/01/13
New plan crafted to limit Ocean Beach erosion SF Chronicle, 11/02/12
Ocean Beach sand management project wraps up ABC Local News, 09/20/12
Sand Mangement Project to partly close Great Highway OB Bulletin, 08/19/12
Great Highway lane work delayed SF Chronicle, 08/09/12
Mayor Lee Celebrates SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan SF Mayor’s Office, 07/26/12
Turning the Tide at Ocean Beach KQED News, 07/26/12
Shifting sand to be transported elsewhere in San Francisco SF Examiner, 07/23/12
Ocean Beach sand plan could help curb erosion south of Sloat OB Bulletin 07/20/12
Ocean Beach master plan maps $300M project SF Business Journal, 06/22/12
Stay or go? Communities are eyeing a retreat from sea NBC News, 06/02/12
San Francisco's Coast and the Rising Sea KQED, 04/10/12
San Francisco's Battle With Mother Nature Planetizen, 03/28/12
Coastal Erosion in SF Prompts Planning and Debate KQED, 03/26/12
Both Coasts Watch Closely as SF Faces Erosion The New York Times, 03/24/12
Makeover could mean changes on Great Highway SF Examiner, 11/12/11
OBMP Envisions Big Changes for Great Highway KQED, 11/07/11
Erosion expected to strip economic value of Ocean Beach OB Bulletin, 09/13/11
Erosion problems threaten the future of Ocean Beach ABC Local News, 09/05/11
State panel rejects city's repairs to Ocean Beach SF Chronicle, 07/15/11
Violent Pacific storms of 2010 worst on record SF Chronicle, 07/14/11
Public urged to help decide fixes for Ocean Beach erosion Sunset Beacon, 02/01/11
Forces of Nature are Working to Destroy Ocean Beach The Bay Citizen, 01/25/11
On the Brink of an Ocean Beach Master Plan OB Bulletin, 09/21/10
Is It Worth It to Save Oceanfront Development? The New York Times, 09/13/10
Experts Call for Long-Term Fix for Beach Erosion Sunset Beacon, 11/01/10
Ocean Beach due for an overhaul SF Examiner, 07/08/08
The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast Pacific Institute
Coastal Regional Sediment Management Project USACE, CA Resources Agency
Our Coast Our Future (OCOF) GFNMS, PRBO, USGS
Western Shoreline Plan (Local Coastal Program) SF Planning
Ocean Beach Task Force Summary (2005) Ocean Beach Task Force
South Ocean Beach - Shore Management Discussion Bob Battalio, PE