State coastal agency could fund Ocean Beach Master Plan

Ocean Beach Master Plan map

Image: California Coastal Conservancy

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.

California Coastal Conservancy staff report – Jan. 19, 2012 funding request for San Francisco Ocean Beach M…


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. Reducing lanes on the great highway between lincoln and sloat is not a holistic approach to coastal retreat because it doesn’t consider the large wastewater conveyance infrastructure below the highway that will either need to be protected or relocated if erosion occurs. Therefore, any traffic study or change in this area is a waste of time and money until the longterm plan of the wastewater infrastructure below the road is addressed. Plus, there doesn’t appear to be significant coastal erosion in this area anyways due to the buffer of the sand dune environment.

  2. Since the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) did in fact vote to give SPUR another $400k it is time to ask one’s self why one state agency (SCC) would vote to spend taxpayer’s money when another state agency, the California Coastal Conservancy (CCC) has just decided the culprit- the City of SF (SF) is liable for millions of dollars in fines for creating the illegal seawall mess in the first place. In other words, why is SCC paying a private third party negotiator (SPUR) to meet secretly with an unrepentant Coastal Act violator in order to plead with SF to do the right thing when SF is legally obligated to do the right thing in a legal public transparent planning process anyway? Why are taxpayers rewarding SPUR and SF for this mess? Why isn’t the $400k being used to clean up the beach?

  3. Just to clarify, Save The Waves has participated in the OB Master Plan process since the beginning, and supports most of the recommendations in the current draft plan, including relocating the road. The one issue we have though with respect to the erosion problems south of Sloat is that we don’t feel there’s currently enough emphasis on relocating the PUC infrastructure over the long-term, which will be the only effective, environmentally sustainable long-term solution.


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