Final Ocean Beach Master Plan unveiled

Ocean Beach Master Plan coverThe final version of the Ocean Beach Master Plan, which aims to forge a single path for the future of San Francisco’s largest beach, was unveiled Wednesday.

“We think it’s a real landmark moment in terms of taking the initiative to think about our coastline proactively,” said Benjamin Grant, who led the planning process for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

The goal of the Ocean Beach Master Plan is to preserve the beach from coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels and other factors.

SPUR coordinated the development of the plan over about two years, a process jointly funded by the California Coastal  Conservancy, the National Park Service and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Production of the plan cost about $400,000 from these sources, but future implementation of all the recommendations in it has been estimated to run between $300 million and $400 million.

Although planners say that preserving hundreds of millions of dollars in public infrastructure along the beach — in particular, the Oceanside Water Pollution Control plant south of Sloat Boulevard and the wastewater transport tunnels that feed into it — wasn’t the main focus of the plan, the presence of that infrastructure was an important consideration in the development of the plan’s recommendations.

One of the changes proposed by the plan that would be most noticeable to local residents is an idea to reroute traffic that now travels on the Great Highway extension south of Sloat Boulevard, diverting it around the north and east sides of the San Francisco Zoo.

This move would relieve San Francisco from the burden of trying to protect the road by constructing seawalls or dumping boulders onto the beach. These methods not only have had mixed results, but they also have resulted in lawsuits against them and get in the way of measures to protect the far more expensive wastewater infrastructure that’s nearby, including the water-treatment plant.

Reconfiguring the Great Highway, Sloat Boulevard and other roads is an expensive proposition, but Grant said the City would end up spending money to address erosion south to Sloat anyway.  “We’re talking about a crisis situation where we’re going to be spending money dealing with it.” he said.

As with many of the master plan’s proposals, shifting the Great Highway traffic would require more money and study before anything changes — which might mean things stay as they are for a decade, even if there’s consensus from the public and all the agencies involved. That kind of consensus can be a slippery thing, and the need for it could prove to be the biggest challenge to the Ocean Beach Master Plan since the agencies and individuals involved in crafting the plan have no legal obligation to follow  it.

“I don’t know if I would say it’s messier,” Grant said of the challenges of pivoting from talking about the future of the beach to putting those ideas into action. “I think the messy phase was the phase in which there wasn’t a comprehensive discourse among the actors going on.”

Planners and officials had planned a press conference about the Ocean Beach Master Plan with Mayor Ed Lee for Monday, July 9, but Grant said July 3 that that press conference has been pushed off and a new date has not yet been set.

Read the entire final Ocean Beach Master Plan here:
Ocean Beach Master Plan052012

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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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5 Comments

  1. How can Mayor Lee hold a press conference for a nonexistent plan? The City currently has no legal planning initiative regarding Ocean Beach. Instead of grandstanding, perhaps the Mayor should actually start a planning effort to square up years of flagrant Coastal Act violations and acknowledge 20 years of unpermitted illegal dumping of debris on the south end of the beach. Showing up for press conferences with nonprofit organizations doing volunteer planning won’t actually result in anything getting done at all….

  2. The article makes it sound as if the city spent $300 on the plan, but I’m reasonably certain that would be the cost of implementing the plan.

  3. Great! Let’s make a place where people who live everywhere else in the world can visit and have a great time, but choke off the beach for the residents who live there and use it everyday– by installing 20 more lights that are not timed, confusing bike lanes, chopping out parking, and eliminating off-leash dog walking areas. This will be a big boon if you surf or commute to the south bay via the “outsidelands” route!

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