Erosion expected to strip economic value of Ocean Beach
San Francisco’s Ocean Beach could lose 92 percent of its beach area, drop tens of millions of dollars in economic value and sustain hundreds of millions of dollars in damages due to erosion caused by rising seas, according to a new study.
The new study by San Francisco State University predicts that as sea level rise, increased erosion and storm damage could cause $540 million in damages, plus tens of millions of dollars in lost tourism dollars and tax revenue.
Based on a sea level rise estimate of 4.6 feet (1.4 meters) by 2100, Ocean Beach could lose:
- $19.6 million in damages caused by a 100-year coastal flood damaging homes and contents. This is an increase of 200 percent from the present day risk of a 100-year flood, which is $6.5 million.
- $82 million in tourism spending and local and state tax revenue losses (accumulated between now and 2100) caused by a narrower, eroded beach attracting fewer visitors.
- $16.5 million in habitat and recreation losses, caused by erosion reducing the beach area by 92 percent (53 acres lost). Ocean Beach provides a habitat for native species such as the Western Snowy Plover, a bird that is federally listed as a threatened species.
- $540 million caused by land, buildings and infrastructure being lost or damaged by erosion and subsidence.
The study, led by SFSU economist Philip G. King, was funded by the California Department of Boating and Waterways. In a statement released with the study, King and co-authors Aaron McGregor and Justin Whittet said they hope the study will help agencies responsible for local planning and beach management determine how to respond to rising seas.
“Understanding the kind of impact sea level rise will have is important for deciding what adaptive action to take,” King said. “Seawalls have become the de facto policy for dealing with erosion and sea level rise but our findings suggest that other policies such as beach nourishment or where possible, allowing the coastline to retreat, could be more cost effective.”
The SFSU study examined Ocean Beach only north of Sloat Boulevard, but impacts from increased erosion already have been felt south of Sloat. There, sand has been stripped from the beach, parts of the Great Highway have fallen into the sea and the city has installed walls of boulders in an attempt to protect the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant, which processes waste water from most of western San Francisco.
San Francisco’s efforts to armor the southern part of Ocean Beach as an erosion-control measure have proved controversial. In August, the California Coastal Protection Network sued the city, seeking to force the city to remove rock piles and other structures the group says were placed improperly on Ocean Beach.
The study is not available online, but is available through San Francisco State University’s communications department.