Ocean Beach Master Plan charts course for future
San Francisco’s Ocean Beach makes up nearly the entire western edge of the city, yet it’s never had a unified vision for its future or a plan to put that vision into action.
That’s changing with the Ocean Beach Master Plan, an ambitious effort to address the questions of what people want out of the massive strand that is both a neighborhood playground and a national park, how the jumble of agencies responsible for the beach can work together, and what to do about increasing erosion and rising sea levels. The plan will be formally presented at an event on the beach planned for April, but on Thursday organizers offered a sneak peek at the result of more than a year of work.
“We’re very excited about the recommendations we put together,” said Benjamin Grant, who has led the Ocean Beach Master Plan initiative for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association think tank.
Those recommendations include a variety of measures to enhance people’s enjoyment of the beach, while protecting it and a massive complex of municipal infrastructure from the ravages of a rising Pacific Ocean:
- Reroute traffic that now travels the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard, sending it onto Sloat and around the east side of the San Francisco Zoo.
- Install a multifaceted erosion-control system including sand replenishment, cobblestone berms and hard walls in selected areas, such as in front of the Oceanside water-treatment plant south of the zoo.
- Shift the turnaround point of the L-Taraval Muni line so trains stop on Sloat Boulevard adjacent to the zoo.
- Create walking trails and other connections among southern Ocean Beach, Fort Funston and Lake Merced.
- Reduce some parts of the Great Highway to one lane in each direction, instead of two.
- Install parking and erosion-control measures in areas where the Great Highway is narrowed.
- Replace asphalt parking lots at Ocean Beach near Golden Gate Park with a combination of paving and planting that will enhance the everyday aesthetics of the area while retaining parking capacity for big events.
- Add dedicated bicycle lanes to take riders between Geary Boulevard in the Richmond District and Ocean Beach.
The master plan anticipates guiding the management of Ocean Beach until about 2050, with a major re-evaluation in 2030.
Grant presented the plan at SPUR headquarters on Mission Street to an audience of several dozen people. He said the Ocean Beach Master Plan isn’t a regulatory document or a law, and acknowledged that it would take decades – and a lot of money – to put each of its ideas into action.
People in the audience seemed generally positive about the plan, but a few of the recommendations did draw some skeptical questions.
According to data SPUR collected earlier about public feedback on its recommendations, the idea of reducing lanes on the Great Highway drew the greatest number of negative comments. That recommendation concerned Great Highway resident Mike Learned, too.
Learned, who said he has lived at Santiago Street and Lower Great Highway for 31 years, said that even today, a sunny day will often bring enough traffic to the beach to clog the street.
“On any beautiful Saturday or Sunday of the year, traffic on Great Highway backs up from Sloat Boulevard — sometimes all the way to Noriega,” he said, adding that he sometimes has to close his windows because of the fumes from backed-up cars.
“I think there’s going to be some serious traffic and environmental impact if the capacity to carry traffic is reduced.”
The Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard runs past two very different parts of the beach. At about Noriega Street, near-shore currents strike the beach and divide. One current runs north, depositing sand from San Francisco Bay and making the beach wider, while another turns south, scouring sand away from the beach and eroding the berm on which the Great Highway was built. It’s the erosion that prompted the idea to narrow the Great Highway, allowing more room for erosion-control measures on the beach.
SPUR has developed the Ocean Beach Master Plan with months of brainstorming and feedback from nearby residents and beach users, agencies such as the National Park Service and the City of San Francisco, neighborhood groups, advocacy organizations, and Beach Chalet restaurateur and beach activist Lara Truppelli. The master plan has been funded by the California Coastal Conservancy, the City, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an arm of the National Park Service.
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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