Ocean Beach Master Plan charts course for future

Ocean Beach San Francisco

Photo: Flickr user stevendramon

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.
Benjamin Grant

Benjamin Grant. Photo: Tom Prete / Ocean Beach Bulletin

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.

Ocean Beach Master Plan feedback graph

The Ocean Beach Master Plan's recommendation to narrow the Great Highway, "Key Move 3," received the greatest amount of negative feedback. Graphic courtesy SPUR.

“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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  1. I have just notice about the master plan, and is someone who has lived in the outer sunset all my life. I don’t see anything special or great about the Ocean Beach Master Paln at all. At best it just how people who live the Outer Sunset would react, when their neighborhood street is being worked on again or still have not for a very long time.

    If I gave any input like other people who live in the Outer Sunset, I would say beautifi it so that everyone who live in the Outer Sunset from 29th Ave Noriega to Irving and all the way down to 41 Ave and from Lake Merced to 20th Ave Sloat can enjoy going there. I would say look parts of the Pacific Coast Highway going toward Southern California as a reference guide on what to do. IF they want more business to open near or by Ocean Beach, they need to look at The Grove down in Los Angeles and Americana At Brand in Glendale as a reference guide. NOT for what kind of business or retail are there, but for the architecture and landscaping. So they know what to do in fixing up the area for business and that it is warm and inviting. The business that open do up can be kept local and should be. As I remember sometime last year Isearched online and found that the people that run the Thunder Valley Casino buffet, after ten years they wanted to update or remodel a little of it. So what they did was go and use the Bellagio Casino and Wynn Casino buffet as a reference gudie. They visited the place. I think it was on the Sacramento Bee’s site. So that how I would want done to Ocean Beach.

    I wonder the main people that support this plan and want to see it happen do they even live in the Outer Sunset at all or long enough to know what they are even saying. I hope they DID NOT just come in and said this should be done to it. Because that stupid and not smart at all.

  2. Seriously, these changes have been for the worse for the most part. One lane at the great highway? This move to cut lanes throughout the City leads to MORE traffic congestion and back-ups! The are making a mess of the Great Highway and spending a ton of money doing it! Fools! SPUR and Benjamin Grant with his little black scarf is a joke!

  3. In general, we view the SPUR proposal for Sloat as a welcome step in the right direction; however, 4Oceans brings up an excellent point that if the infrastructure component is deemed “technically infeasible” we could very well be back to square one, fighting new plans to dump rock. For this reason, we have been urging the public to stay involved, seek information, ask tough questions, and provide input. There will eventually be new public meetings regarding all the specific Master Plan components as they head towards implementation.

  4. All they should be doing is preventing erosion by the zoo, everything else I have seen is a discusting idiots idea on what ocean beach should be and what it will never be. Ocean beach is cold, foggy, & wet 99% of the time. I am sure non of this will be approved anyway as it does not reflect the laid back atmosphere the avenues represent and is a HUGE waste of money. LEAVE OCEAN BEACH ALONE!!!

    • In addition to what I said, anyone that is that involved in compleatly changing a massive beach way out in the sunset probably doesn’t even live in the richmond/sunset.

  5. Steve
    I know that I’m not the only one in the Sunset who has just become aware of the Ocean Beach Plan to narrow the the upper Great Hwy. to two lanes and to force traffic onto Sloat Blv. by eliminating access to Skyline Blv. (Hwy. 1) . I’m suspicious that the plan will also reduce parking at Ocean Beach. The likelyhood that this will increase conjestion , pollution, litter and parking pressure in the local community will make this imposition highly unpopular amoung our businesses, residents and vistors. This is a step backwards in the great progress we have made in the last decade toward improving comercial atmosphere and general quality of life here at La playa Park. I will be speading the word about this through our web..list (over 200 locals strong) and will be encouraging others to do the same.
    May You Have Red Skies at Night.

  6. Would love to see some palm trees out there similar to Embarcadero, give the beachfront promenade some dramatic landscape to stroll along, showers, bathrooms, you’d see more people spending time out there, and add fire pits rather than letting people burn in the sand, as the sand is filled with charred wood now, not so attractive. A bike path enhancement would be fantastic too.

  7. Unfortunately after years of work (Lara and other neighborhood activists have been working on these issues for over 15 years) and now millions of public dollars having been spent on SPUR…. we get a proposal and a “Master Plan” designed to fail.

    Here is the primary reason for SF City supporting the Master Plan: SF has been illegally dumping debris on Ocean Beach for at least the last 17 years (in a National Park and in waters of a National Marine Sanctuary) and faces many tens of millions of dollars in fines & penalties for violating a whole host of environmental and resource protection laws, as well as the need to clean up the rocks and concrete, rebar and old shopping carts etc located South of Sloat Ave.

    With this plan, SPUR & SF are taking credit for ‘considering’ moving car traffic east of the SF Zoo onto Lake Merced Blvd. in order to initiate a ‘planned retreat’ for shoreline restoration, while also noting that since SF has done no actual legal land use planning whatsoever, it will take “many decades to achieve…..”

    Here is how the plan is designed to fail: SPUR has refused (at the request of SF) to consider ALSO doing the obvious – moving sewer infrastructure and pipes under the portion of Great Highway along the beach fronting the sewer plant.

    That fact is a poison pill and belies the so-called ‘restoration’ of the shoreline and INSURES that SF will continue to need to dump debris, build seawalls and otherwise harden the shore fronting the SF zoo and sewer plant. By leaving the sewer pipes SF gets what it has always wanted – to continue to use the beach as a dump in order to ‘protect’ some old sewer pipes that could easily be moved.

    It is unbelievable that SPUR would consider ‘finalizing’ a plan so obviously deficient.

  8. If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. Spend $ on preventing more erosion & shoreing up the berm near the southern end BEFORE it falls into the ocean & turns that portion of Hiway 1 into a cul da sac.

  9. Ocean beach should be left alone, as it is not heavily urban and doesn’t need to be. NO lane reduction and NO rerout. The people that are involved in this aubsurd plan must have no life to be concerned with ocean beach.

  10. As someone who drives on the Great Highway on a regular basis, I would suggest the idea of narrowing it at any point is a terrible idea.

  11. Not too crazy about the Great Highway narrowing plans either.


  1. Coastal Erosion in SF Prompts Planning and Debate | KQED's Climate Watch
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