Ocean Beach Master Plan drafts big changes for Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach Master Plan meeting 3 presentation cover pagePlanners have revealed a sweeping set of recommendations for guiding San Francisco’s Ocean Beach over the next several decades. The plan is predictably complex, especially with the necessity to protect important city infrastructure, but the changes deliberately aim to preserve the natural habitat, surfing, and the sweeping views that many residents enjoy.

Ocean Beach faces challenges including destructive coastal erosion, rising sea levels and a myriad of competing demands as the biggest beach in a densely developed city. In response to these challenges, the draft recommendations of the Ocean Beach Master Plan call for changes such as rerouting part of the Great Highway, reducing the number of lanes on most of that road, and installing cobblestone berms and other features to blunt the erosive impact of waves on the shore.

When it is completed early next year, the Ocean Beach Master Plan will provide a set of principles and concrete suggestions that city, state and federal agencies can use to guide the management of the beach over the next several decades.

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association think tank is facilitating the development of the master plan, in consultation with a group of government and community representatives as well as experts in fields such as coastal engineering. On Saturday, SPUR held the third in a series of public meetings about the Ocean Beach Master Plan and presented its draft recommendations there.

“To date, much of the project has been about research into the very complex nature of the issues and challenges at Ocean Beach,” said Ben Grant, SPUR’s project manager for the Ocean Beach Master Plan. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the public at two previous workshops.”

“What you’ll see today is not set in stone,” Grant told the audience at Saturday’s meeting, saying that he is looking for feedback from the public about whether the draft recommendations are the right ones.

The Ocean Beach Bulletin plans to detail some of the master plan’s major recommendations in coming weeks.

While the plan already represents one of the most extensive analytical efforts directed at Ocean Beach, even when it is completed it won’t be a binding regulatory document. But planners, agencies and individuals that have been involved in its creation say they want it to be a practical guidebook for managing the beach, not just a white paper that is quickly forgotten.

OBMP leaders had first thought to create a plan for the next 50 years, but absorbed a suggestion from the San Francisco chapter of the Surfrider Foundation to make concrete plans for the period up to 2030, then assess the success of their efforts and make adjustments for the following 20 years. Grant said that while the Ocean Beach Master Plan’s ideas might be relevant until about 2050, it is likely that after that point, rising seas and other factors will make it difficult to maintain the beach and nearby infrastructure as we know them today.

Six big suggestions

The preliminary recommendations for the Ocean Beach Master Plan were grouped broadly into six “key moves.”

Planners think about Ocean Beach in three distinct segments, or “reaches,” with different uses and challenges: the heavily eroded South Reach south of Sloat Boulevard, the Middle Reach from Sloat to Lincoln Way, and the busy North Reach from Lincoln Way north. The six “key moves” of the draft recommendations are divided evenly among the three reaches:

Ocean Beach Master Plan draft recommendations key moves map

Image courtesy SPUR.

South Reach:

  • Key Move 1: Reroute Great Highway behind the zoo via Sloat and Skyline
  • Key Move 2: Introduce a multipurpose coastal protection/restoration/access system

Middle Reach:

  • Key Move 3: Reduce width of Great Highway to provide amenities / managed retreat
  • Key Move 4: Middle Reach native dune restoration

North Reach:

  • Key Move 5: Better connection between Golden Gate Park and beach
  • Key Move 6: Bicycle and pedestrian improvements north of Balboa

Next steps for Ocean Beach Master Plan

A final version of the master plan should be completed in about February 2012, after taking into account feedback about initial recommendations. In the meantime, a full Ocean Beach Master Plan draft should be ready in December and will be presented to the public early next year.

Anyone who wants to make comments or give an opinion about the master plan’s draft recommendations can email oceanbeach@spur.org.

Ocean Beach Master Plan documents

SPUR’s slide presentation from the Oct. 29 Ocean Beach Master Plan meeting is embedded below. To watch videos of the presentation, visit the Ocean Beach Bulletin’s YouTube channel.

Ocean Beach Master Plan Public Workshop 3 Presentation October 29, 2011



Editor’s Note: Tom Prete worked at SPUR from April 2006 to October 2007, managing the think tank’s publications. He did copy-editing work for SPUR on a freelance basis from October 2007 to June 2011. He was never involved in SPUR policy matters.

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  1. Some of the recommendations, including the reduction of lanes on the Great Highway, will have significant impacts on traffic patterns in the Sunset District. Supervisor Carmen Chu is hosting a Sunset specific meeting with SPUR to address the recommendations and get input from the District 4 residents. Please spread the word: Ocean Beach Master Plan Sunset Meeting, Thursday Nov. 17, 6:30 – 8:00 pm, Ortega Library Community Room. For more information, please call 415-554-7460

  2. Well put Scott! I concur!

  3. To: oceanbeach@spur.org
    Subject: Ocean Beach Master Plan
    Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2011 09:28:18 -0700

    I have just recently come across the Ocean Beach Master Plan on this website: http://oceanbeachbulletin.com/2011/11/02/ocean-beach-master-plan-drafts-big-changes-for-ocean-beach/

    I see that reducing the number of lanes on most of the Great Highway is something that is being proposed. I would like to voice my concern for removing lanes from the Great Highway, especially southbound lanes. As a resident of the outer Richmond, the Great Highway is my portal to all points south, whether traveling to Hwy 1, Hwy 280, or eventually Hwy 101. In case of any type of disaster (earthquake or tsunami), the Great Highway will be a VITAL line of transportation to many residents of the outer avenues in case evacuation from the City is necessary. Two lanes in this southbound direction MUST remain open to support a necessary disaster management relief plan; we will not have the option to evacuate North over the Golden Gate Bridge, and traversing east across entire City to eventually reach a southbound highway is not practical for the hundreds of thousands who live out here. Sunset Boulevard will not adequately handle all of the traffic that would be created in case of a need for mass exodus of residents of the outer avenues. By removing lane(s) of traffic on the Great Highway, planners would put residents’ safety at risk by greatly reducing the ability of residents to use the Great Highway in case of some type of emergency. Also keep in mind there are no live electrical wires spanning across or along the majority of the Great Highway, coupled with the fact that the road is a ‘straight shot’ with no exits/entries between Lincoln and Sloat; thereby making this road an even more important asset in case of emergency; so long as the road may be traversed, it will lack the impediments many other roads in the City will have and be vital in assisting residents and Emergency Management workers easier access into/out of the City. I’m all for public use, but safety is paramount, and to ignore this fact would be an incredibly irresponsible action of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. Please consider this point; we need to maintain two functioning lanes of traffic moving southbound on the Great Highway to ensure the safety of ourselves, as well as our friends, family, and neighbors of the Outer Richmond and Sunset.

    Thanks for your time and consideration.

    • “In case of any type of disaster (earthquake or tsunami), the Great Highway will be a VITAL line of transportation to many residents of the outer avenues in case evacuation from the City is necessary.”

      1. In the event of a tsunami, Great Highway is probably the last place you want to be!
      2. In the event of earthquake, in the unlikely event that a citywide evacuation is needed, I’m sure the northbound lane could be pressed into service as a southbound lane.


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