State coastal agency could fund Ocean Beach Master Plan
UPDATE 8 p.m. Jan. 20: The Coastal Conservancy voted 5-0 to approve SPUR’s Ocean Beach Master Plan funding request, according to conservancy Communications Director Dick Wayman.
The California Coastal Conservancy could give $400,000 Thursday to help the Ocean Beach Master Plan take the first steps toward concrete action after nearly a year and a half of input, analysis and planning.
“That’s the goal – to try to buld on the momentum we have and ensure this doesn’t end up as some book on a shelf,” said Ben Grant, director of the master-plan effort for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association think tank. SPUR is coordinating the creation of the plan with funding from federal, state and local sources.
The agency will consider the funding request at its meeting Thursday afternoon. If it goes through, the money would help pay for a traffic study on the impacts of closing down part of the Great Highway, plus the creation of agreements by which the various agencies that manage Ocean Beach would cooperate under a single unified vision.
The traffic study is necessary if one of the lynchpins of the master plan is to go forward.
“So many other of the things we’re proposing turn on making that work,” said Grant.
The preliminary Ocean Beach Master Plan calls for closing the Great Highway to private auto traffic south of Sloat Boulevard, rerouting southbound traffic north to Sloat and to Skyline Boulevard east of the San Francisco Zoo, plus narrowing the Great Highway to one lane in each direction. Planners say those changes, in essence, would allow for a better game of defense.
Eliminating two lanes of traffic on the Great Highway between Lincoln and Sloat boulevards and moving the remaining traffic east would provide a buffer — room to install some erosion-control measures gentler and more effective than seawalls, and even to retreat from the edge of the water as the ocean level rises. And the Great Highway extension south of Sloat has been the site of some expensive and controversial protection measures, including the installation of a rock revetment that prompted an ongoing lawsuit against the city. Closing that section of the road would permit authorities to concentrate on protecting the Oceanside Water Treatment Plant, a massive facility much harder and more expensive to relocate than a two-lane surface road.
“We really want to lead with that, get that into environmental review as soon as possible,” Grant said.
The joint management agreements are intended to bring some clarity and goals to the mishmash of agencies that each play some role in the management of Ocean Beach.
“What we’d like to come out is an agreed-upon road map” for managing the beach, said Grant.
The conservancy’s $400,000 would be about half of the funding for conducting the traffic study and creating the joint-management frameworks. According to conservancy documents, additional funding of $125,000 is expected from the National Park Service, which manages the beach itself, plus $300,000 over the next two fiscal years from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The SFPUC owns wastewater infrastructure near Ocean Beach, including the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant south of Sloat Boulevard and a massive wastewater transport system under the Great Highway.
SPUR presented a set of Ocean Beach Master Plan draft recommendations in November, and is scheduled to release a final proposed plan later this month.
The conservancy staff has recommended that its governing board approve SPUR’s funding request, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Golden Gate National Recreation Area General Superintendent Frank Dean sent the conservancy letters of support.
But not everyone is convinced that the changes proposed by SPUR are the right ones.
Dean LaTourrette of Save the Waves, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving coastal environments, said that the big issue should really be relocating the water-treatment infrastructure that lies so close to the sea, particularly south of Sloat Boulevard.
“In general, we do support continuing to fund the process, but we don’t want to see that money go toward studies about engineering solutions and or implementation of engineering solutions that don’t involve strategic relocation of infrastructure,” he said.
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.