SPUR Initiates Next Phase of the Ocean Beach Master Plan
By Ben Grant, Shannon, FIala, and Shilpi Chhotray, Ocean Beach Project Team
February 7, 2013

Ocean Beach looking northwest and the Great Highway’s southbound lanes, closed for sand maintenance. In the next phase, SPUR will investigate the traffic and transportation impacts of permanently closing the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard, as well as innovative strategies for managing coastal erosion. Photo courtesy Flickr user Robert B. Livingston

For the past two years, SPUR has led an extensive interagency and public process for the development of the Ocean Beach Master Plan. This work represents the first move SPUR and San Francisco have made to directly address sea level rise. Now we are beginning the first steps to implement the plan, which presents recommendations for the management and protection of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach through the year 2050. The master plan lays out an ambitious and proactive vision to adapt to rising seas, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystems and improve public access. The vision was developed through the participation of a wide range of public agencies, advocates, and citizens over an 18-month period.
Read the complete Master Plan >>

Immediate Successes
The Ocean Beach Master Plan is already achieving tangible benefits and improved partnership among public agencies. In August and September of 2012, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) partnered with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to truck 73,000 cubic yards of excess sand from the north end of Ocean Beach to the south, tackling two problems at once: the record accumulation of sand at the north end, and severe erosion at the south end. The results — a “sacrificial” dune protecting the beach and covering unsightly rubble — hint at the potential of large-scale beach nourishment, a key ingredient in the Ocean Beach Master Plan vision.

This year, the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) is repaving the Great Highway from end to end. As key a partner on the master plan, DPW was well aware of the plan’s proposals to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to Ocean Beach. DPW Director Mohammed Nuru directed his staff to add recommended planted medians and improved crossings to the repaving project, which will improve safety and access while improving environmental performance and aesthetics. 

SPUR Leads Implementation Studies
The Ocean Beach Master Plan is a vision document. Although it is already shaping actions on the ground, it doesn’t yet have the force of law or policy. SPUR is now engaged in efforts to implement the vision, helping to translate plan recommendations into implementable projects, develop more detailed technical analysis, and prepare for environmental and regulatory review. We have been awarded funds from the California State Coastal Conservancy, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the National Park Service to conduct implementation studies. These will include a transportation analysis, a coastal management framework and open space planning.

Transportation Study
Implementing the Ocean Beach Master Plan vision will require significant reconfiguration of roadways, including the closure of the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard, the re-routing of traffic behind the San Francisco Zoo via Sloat and Skyline, and the redesign of Sloat Boulevard into a multi-modal coastal gateway. This project will conduct detailed transportation analysis, including an existing conditions study, the development of roadway configurations based on Ocean Beach Master Plan recommendations, and modeling the effects of the proposed changes on the city’s transportation system.

SPUR is working closely with SF Municipal Transportation Agency and SF Planning Department staff to scope this project and ensure it will meet the city’s technical requirements.

Coastal Management Framework
The Framework will test and further develop the master plan’s approach to coastal management, which includes a combination of managed retreat, beach nourishment and coastal armoring, all designed to protect threatened infrastructure while also supporting coastal access, recreation and ecological functions. This study will include interim protection strategies, as well as defining triggers and actions as sea-level rise sets in. It will lay the foundation of an interagency agreement for adaptive coastal management actions by the three major responsible agencies (SFPUC, GGNRA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers).

SPUR is working closely with SFPUC and GGNRA staff to scope this project and hire a coastal engineering consulting team. 

Listen to SPUR's Ben Grant in KQED's piece on managed retreat: "San Francisco: A Test Case for Coping with Rising Seas."

Joint Open Space Planning
This project will coordinate collaboration between local and federal partners in managing Ocean Beach as a recreational and ecological resource. The study will include open space schematic design and programming studies, as well as pilot studies and the installation of temporary amenities. It will lay the foundation of an interagency agreement for open space management actions by the two major responsible agencies, GGNRA and the SF Department of Recreation and Parks).

Stay tuned for more updates on the implementation of the Ocean Beach Master Plan!


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