South of Sloat Boulevard, the Ocean Beach shoreline is littered with concrete debris and boulders. The rock material is purposefully left on the beach to protect the road and nearby wastewater infrastructure from the surf. Due to long-term erosion, this beach has narrowed to the point at which it is usually impassible at high tides. Access to and from the water over the rock is unsafe. The ecosystem and even the surf break itself has been compromised.
Our vision of beach restoration involves:
In 2010 Ocean Beach was battered by a series of powerful winter storms. The area south of Sloat Boulevard was hit particularly hard. Coastal erosion was so severe that a section of the Great Highway fell onto the beach. The San Francisco Department of Public Works issued a declaration of emergency to protect City infrastructure in the area. Besides the Great Highway, DPW was concerned about a wastewater tunnel located under the road. A 425-foot rock revetment, a wall of boulders was placed on the beach. Surfrider Foundation San Francisco and Save The Waves Coalition joined forces to opposed the revetment project. Many in the community have asked why we opposed the rock revetment at Sloat, as well as what kind of solution we advocate.
Since the El Nino years of the 1990's, erosion has intensified in the Sloat area. City infrastructure is built closer to the ocean here than at anywhere else along the beach. The first rock revetments were placed in the mid '90s as a temporary measure to protect the north parking lot and wastewater infrastructure. The projects sparked public outcry. Much of the beach had already been lost to erosion; and now much of whatever sand remained was to be covered with boulders. In response to citizen's concerns, Mayor Willie Brown commissioned a citizen / government task force to draft a long-term solution for erosion at Sloat. The Ocean Beach Task Force (1995-2005) eventually recommended a Managed Retreat strategy. Managed Retreat is a planned relocation of infrastructure away from the ocean. The measure was rejected by San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW) and other City agencies. A pilot project of sand nourishment was chosen to remedy the problem. The program, run by the Army Corps of Engineers, consisted of dumping dredged sand from the Golden Gate Ship Channel into the near shore waters off of Sloat. The hope was that the sand would wash ashore and rebuild the beach. Unfortunately, the project was ineffective.
The San Francisco Surfrider Foundation contends that coastal armoring such as the rock revetment could bring a day in which the entire beach at Sloat is permanently underwater. There is already an established long-term erosion trend in the area. Covering more of the beach with rocks is destructive on many levels. Besides the loss of beach available for recreation, there are safety issues and negative impacts to the shoreline ecosystems. Two California state listed bird species — the Snowy Plover and the Bank Swallow — have lost habitat due to the revetment projects. For the surfing community, an armored shoreline could create a permanent backwash effect on the waves of Sloat's inner bar, ruining the break.