Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Beacon's Beach Trail Access

click all images to enlarge

I'm well overdue blogging about the proposed Beacon's Beach trail refurbishment.

I've been meaning to stop by the city and check out the plans in person before I started whining about it on the internet but I lag.

This Thursday, 6 pm at city hall there is going to be a public meeting about the new Beacon's trail. If you frequent this part of Leucadia you know that sections of the dirt trail down to Beacon's beach are constantly collapsing. The other popular beaches in Encinitas; Swami's, D-St and Grandview all have nice staircases while Beacon's has a rapidly eroding dirt trail.

Here is the pdf link about the meeting from the city website, click me

Here is the Union Tribune story that ran about the Beacon's trail the other week: click me

You'll find in that article that the Surfrider Foundation is against any sort of sea wall at the base of the trail and will sue the city to block it.

I personally view the wall as less of a sea wall that will disrupt sand migration and more of a basic retaining wall that will keep the trail from sliding down the cliff ( I must again note that I haven't yet seen the actual plans).

The Surfrider Foundation has a no tolerance policy towards sea walls. I think sea walls should be considered on a case by case basis.

The city has proposed building a 450-foot-long sea wall – the length of the beach – to keep the bluff from crumbling, said John Frenken, the city's park and beach superintendent.

The sea wall would be 17 feet high, but most of it would be below sand level, leaving about 6 feet visible. Steel anchors would be connected to bedrock to stabilize the upper bluff face. The $5 million project includes building new stairways, a lifeguard tower and showers.

Missing from this plan are some sort of public restrooms. Porti-potties would be fine even.

A friend of mine who grew up in Leucadia posted about the Beacon's trail on a surfing message board and a representive of Surfrider posted this reply:

First, I am responding to this without the consent of the current Executive Committee of the San Diego Chapter of Surfrider Foundation. But I have been part of the leadership for some time. For the record, all of the following comments are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of other Surfrider members, the San Diego Chapter, or National. I'm simply trying to give some of the principles on which Surfrider has based their actions.

The San Diego Chapter of Surfrider Foundation has been very active in fighting seawalls for a over 10 years. The reason we're opposed to them is because they impede the natural migration of the coast eastward, as historically has occurred for millions of years. Why does this matter to surfers? Impeding the natural sediment flow takes away the public's beach to preserve structures that have been built on an eroding bluff. You don't build in a floodplain because your house would get washed away; similarly, you don't build a house on an eroding bluff because it will fall in the ocean. The public's use of the beach serves more people than a few homeowners. It's unfortunate for the homeowners, but the public deserves to keep its public resources.

On the Beacon's issue, we were asked to review redesign plans several years ago because there is an active slide in the area. The SD Chapter was not comfortable endorsing the plan because it called for permanent or semi-permanent structures on the bluff; endorsing that would have contradicted our then-active lawsuits in Solana Beach.

This is an extremely complicated issue with many angles/facets. The bottom line is that Surfrider Foundation is opposed to armoring the coastline. The coastline is a dynamic - not static - environment. Our infrastructure, urban planning, and future development should reflect that.

I'm sure many of you want to send me email and get more specifics. Unfortunately, I have a full-time job like (most) of the rest of you and a wife (read - I don't have time to answer everyone's questions one-on-one). I'm trying to give you the gist of Surfrider's stance, but our attorneys at Coast Law Group can elaborate in far greater detail than myself. I have volunteered with the Chapter for nine years while working full-time as an environmental consultant and wildlife biologist. I've been to many public hearings (taking time off from work or in the evenings) while serving as Chairman of the Chapter. Our attorneys also work pro-bono on Surfrider issues and volunteer much of their free time while trying to raise families and make ends meet amidst SoCal's high cost of living. I encourage all of you to contact our full-time employee, Bill Hickman (bill@surfridersd.org) or better yet, come to a Chapter meeting and get involved. Educate yourselves. We need more people to get involved and understand the full effects of coastal armoring.

See you in the water,

Brian Woodward
Advisory Committee
San Diego Chapter
Surfrider Foundation

I hope Surfrider presents an alternative idea instead of just shutting down this proposal.

Here is a photo I took of Beacon's during our last 7 ft+ high tide. As you can see even with this extreme tide the surfline does not reach the cliffs.

Granted the waves are not very big this day. A high tide during a gnarly winter storm may reach the base of the trail and the sea wall. I guess the fear is that the beach sand will be stripped away from the wall during such a storm.

So my question is, could we design a sea wall that is jagged shape, something that sand can cling too? Could we design a sea wall with nook and crannies that plants could take root in and birds could nest in? A smarter better sea wall? Any engineers out there?

It seems to me that a lot of people on both sides of the coin have never even spent any quality time at Beacon's are going to be making some big decisions on it's future.

Can we preserve the natural beauty of the bluff and still have safe passage to the beach?

North Beacon's has an old sea wall that juts out into the surf during high tides. Sand seems to be doing a good job of staying around here. In fact there is too much sand on the reef for the waves to be as good as they can get there.


  1. Well, I'll be attacked by our resident "bum" but I agree with the Surfrider Foundation. Those homes on the bluffs cannot get regular insurance. The bluffs are unstable.

    You don't see them putting in stairs at Blacks Beach. Beacon's has always had a trail.

    City can't afford sidewalks, library, overpriced Public Works yard, ($10 million), overpriced, overdesigned library (over $20 million), three McMansion new Fire Houses, and a $5 million dollar 350 ft. seawall. Hey, if City wants a wall, just build one around the City itself.

    We are sick of walls. The walls are to protect the homes, more than the trail.

  2. JP good overview of the issue. As a Park and Rec commissioner I have been following this very close. Personally I know this project to be a boondogle and the reason squirrels were being poisoned there this summer.

  3. Great post, JP. I totally agree with you that the Surfrider needs another answer than "no sea walls". Look at the newer seawalls built over the last few years - they are very attractive (especially compared to the first geneneration walls). A "third generation" wall design that his not completely straight sounds even better, as long as it looks natural.

    I wonder what the Surfrider foundation would say if the entire cliff colapses and there is NO ACCESS to the beach? When will they approve of some sort of managment of the bluffs? It is not far fetched that the bluff will collapse enough for the City to close the trail, and then what?

    I just don't buy the "all the sand on the beach comes from collapsing bluff theory" that the Surfriders promote. That is ridiculous for all of us who have lived here all our lives - that just is not true!

    KEEP BEACONS OPEN for all - tell the City you want this project to proceed, or you know what will happen - some other project will.

  4. Seawalls of any kind prevent natural erosion from bluff to beach. So after coastal cities destroy the coastal environment, they then start taxing people to put sand on the beach.

  5. tortilla flats in da houseNovember 15, 2006 6:59 AM

    Hey Quit Naming Spots. ha ha
    I'm embarrassed to admit that I surf there a lot and I just don't see the city coming up with the cash to do this in the near future. I think maintenance of the trail could keep access open for another 10 - 15 years but at some point stairs need to be built. I don't want a seawall built but if they have to, the bluff is set back far enough from the high tide line compared to seawalls both north and south that the effect would be minimal in my non engineering amateur opinion.
    Once they build all the amenities I think we will look back at the good old days and miss the old beacons.

  6. I wonder what surfrider would say if Hwy 101 was turned into a dead end down by Cardiff.

    That would ruin, I repeat ruin, the economy's of several coastal cities.

    I'd love to hear there position on that possibility.

  7. Armoring the Coast line is bad period. If City and public agencies do it, everybody does it. Not far from what we currently have.

    Stairs and all the improvments mentioned would work without the Wall. Bottom line- there is no good type of wall for helping the beach. The wall helps the property owner just east of the wall at the expense of the public that likes sandy beaches.

    Build all the improvements without the beach realizing that within 100 years we will need to make maintenance improvements to the Beacons access. The stairway alternative wth no wall looks the best to me

    I totally agree with increasing the pedestrian walkway and vista area by pushing the vehicals to the east.

  8. First, it seems the city should accept the same rules that it imposes on homeowners up and down the bluffs. A homeowner is only allowed to "armor" on an emergency basis. Beacons would probably stand as it is with proper maintenance of the trails for many years to come.

    Forget the wall at the toe of the slope, build more temporary improvements (including portapotties)if we feel improvements are necessary.

    My gut tells me that working with nature rather than imposing manmade devices once again, is the answer. We will continuously deal with these coastal issues, let's approach them by allowing the bluffs to fail as they naturally will. We have no responsibility as a city to protect those who have bought homes on an eroding cliff, we should follow our own advice (this city did have another Westerly street at one time). I'm not trying to be meanspirited, but rational.

    I'll suggest here that within a time frame of 10-20 years, we will be faced with many of the effects of global warming. As a coastal city, erosion of our bluffs will occur more rapidly and intensely. Whatever we decide regarding improvements to Beacons may be "temporary" anyway.

    Also consider that what is happening on Thursday is a review and comment on an EIR for this project. So concentrate on impacts to the environment and how this project plays with that.

  9. As you walk the beach below Beacons, you'll notice that Beacons has had numerous failures of the bluff, and that it is "dished out" at the top. That topography suggests that adjacent landforms and devices (seawalls) have played a part in intensifying these failures.

    The scientists that have studied these coastal conditions, have noted that where a seawall ends, the ocean tends to scour whatever is unprotected adjacent to it. To continue the protection uniformly along the face of Beacons would help preserve it from future erosion.

    These same scientists have also noted that the best protection for bluffs, is a wide sandy beach, hands down.

    Maybe we would be miles ahead by concentrating on sand replenishment than seawalls.

  10. Dams are unnatural manmade structures should we tear them down?

  11. Think about the real possibility of the bluff colapsing and the City closing the trail. That woudl be great for people who have their own beach access, but not good for the public.

  12. You know what effects bluff failure? The wind.
    When Beacon's had nice thick kelp beds not only did the surf stay glassy all day but the cliffs were protected from the wind. The kelp beds are still trying to recover from the brutal chopping they took from that last (and possibly illegal) midnight run by the the kelp cutter.

  13. The blocked the bluff from the wind?


  14. Kelp. The KELP blocked the bluffs from the wind?

    I'm thinking...no.

  15. I'm with surfrider on this one. Seawalls should be banned. They don't do anything but create an unnatural flow of sand.

    Dams should be removed from rivers. We can generate all the power we need from nuclear energy. If Jimmy Carter had not banned the reprocessing of spent nuclear rods, like the rest of the world does, nuclear energy wouldn't be a problem for us.

  16. Zeolots are people that don't think about things, they just have a "pat answer". One thing that makes JP special is that he can see things on their own merits, rather than just give the "standard answer" - we don't like seawalls.

  17. Rochelle great post. I can see a nuc plant instead of the hotel at La Costa and 101. We could use the flood waters from Leucadia to cool the process.

    This would give a great target for my activities here in Leucadia. I wouldn't have to travel so far to work.

  18. I used to be a dues paying member of the Surfrider Foundation before I started attending some meetings.

    I quickly found out that they are both inflexible and for sale. Remember that they supported prop A even though the Ecke piece is a few miles from the water. They loved prop C without understanding what a boondogle it was.

    If a small wall would improve safety and access to me and my pals screw the group and stop paying dues like I did.

  19. Safe access means more surfers.

  20. What the hey, might as well post on this just to give some of the "seawall" supporters another target. I hate seawalls. The ocean is relentless and unpredictable. To be effective for everyone we would have to have a continuous wall along our coast. Even then with global warming and the rise in mean high tide line the walls will fail. You can't fool mother nature.

    There will always be access to a good break, it may not be access for the faint of heart, but surfers will find a way, always have. Seawalls primarily protect whats on the bluff.

    Some day the bluffs will fail, maybe not in my time but someday.

    How far back will they fail. If an earthquake is part of the catalyst, probably to the weakest point. The train tracks sounds about right to me in a lot of areas. That would eliminate the train whistle and idiots hit by trains for awhile and make Vulcan desireable ocean front property.

    Sand, sand, sand. This helps to lessen the effect of cobbles being hurled against the base of the bluff in severe storms. Gives kelp a base to establish itself. Fix the trail, forget the seawalls.

    In addition, I can't cast over a seawall.

  21. Kelp forests damper wave action when left uncut. A blanket of kelp is useful during storm events.

  22. I agree with a sand replenishment program to migigate the damage caused by us humans. Spend the money budgeted for seawalls on Sand. Build the rest of improvements without a wall.

  23. It's called an ecosystem. Beach bluff, kelp, ocean.

  24. I've read through this entire thread and need to offer some perspective. I've read an awful lot of opinions about what we should do or not do. Let's be clear here.

    A 2.8 million dollar grant was given to the City of Encinitas by the California Dept. of Parks and Rec. The money is being spent on a project that is already designed, and an EIR prepared for that project. No one is asking the public what they want here. The city is only asking you to comment on the EIR that has been prepared.

    Beacons has a long history of bluff instability and is a very popular public resource. As such, a grant was written to seek money to solve that specific problem.

    The City is not soliciting your input on the project, but soliciting your input on the impacts of their project.

    End of story.

  25. To Eric: When the kelp beds are thick and healthy there is noticably less wind when you are standing at the top of the cliff. As is (no kelp beds) you can actually observe the bluffs take a beating on windy days.

    The kelp beds are crucial to north county. They provide habitat for young fish, they clean up the surf and they protect the bluffs from wind. For years and years you could surf clean waves in north county all day long while outside the kelp beds it was whitecapping.

  26. I think the money from the grant should be spent on sand replenishment and trail repair, as needed. The seawall idea sucks. The environmental impact of that is to eliminate part of our beach, and also, to make the problem worse, as far as bluff errosion where the wall stops.

    There are already plenty of walls between Stonesteps and Beacons. More walls take away from beach access, because we have narrow beaches, anyway. This should be considered re the EIR.

  27. I think the money from the grant should be spent on sand replenishment and trail repair, as needed. The seawall idea sucks. The environmental impact of that is to eliminate part of our beach, and also, to make the problem worse, as far as bluff errosion where the wall stops.

    There are already plenty of walls between Stonesteps and Beacons. More walls take away from beach access, because we have narrow beaches, anyway. This should be considered re the EIR.

  28. Most people abhor walls. The grant should go to help maintain and stabalize the trail, not to put up more walls on our beach.

    And it sounds like the City is more than matching the money if the Sea Wall is to be built at $5 million. If the City has to match the grant money, then it should spend it on trail repair, and putting a bathroom up top, maybe a shower, moving the parking sounds ok, but where?

    People on Neptune aren't going to want to lose their homes; I know that. Will this lead to eminent domain? Some of those homes that are literally collapsing, patios falling down the cliff, should be condemned, and the lots should be reserved for some parking.

  29. Yes, the kelp should not be cut, illegaly. There should have been an EIR on that, too, seems to me. City just goes charging ahead without really caring about the environmental consequences, or following the letter of the environmental laws.

    We do love our beaches; that's why we DON'T want a stinking sea wall.

    We agree: just say no on this one.

  30. Global warming is coming. Kill yourself now.

  31. Chicken Little, get your head out of the sand. We don't have to speed up the problems, make matters worse, by destroying our coastline, cutting the Kelp, building walls to protect the homes that are starting to slide down the bluffs.

    You go kill yourself if you want to; we will stand and try to work for positive change.

  32. Sorry to hijack your thread here, but wanted all to know that the story poles for the Encinitas Artists Lofts (Encinitas Blvd. & 101) will be coming down in a few days. Please have a look if you have not as yet.

  33. Gil, when you say "you can't cast over a seawall", I wonder if you might be misinformed about what exactly is being proposed. My understanding is that in order to do something about the top of the bluff, where it is steep and in danger of failing, there must be some stability at the bottom of the bluff. I seriously doubt that what is being proposed will be in your way when you surf fish off of the Leucadia coast.

  34. Roadside park bumNovember 16, 2006 8:54 AM


    Either make it safe or SHUT IT DOWN!!! CLOSE BEACONS completely!!
    And put in some BATHROOMS!!!
    Not porti potties J.P.!!! BATHROOMS!!!!

    BOB, thanks for doing nothing to help the ocean enviroment at Leucadia for the past 8 years, you are a joke of a commissioner!! Save the enviroment, but it's OK to piss and shit in the ocean, 'cause we don't have bathrooms!!! Plenty of people on this blog have more sense then you will ever have, but they don't have the tattoos!! Go back to Vista and "save" yourself!!!

    It's called an ecosystem, beachbluff, kelp, ocean, shit and piss!!

    Staggering down the 101 wishing we had a new P&R commissioner for Leucadia. It's your RSPB!!

  35. If J.P. said the city should put in bathrooms you would attack him by saying there is not enough money in the city budget.

  36. Eat shit, and live, Roadside Park Bum! Don't have the balls to dialouge under you given name? Perhaps it is this lack of pride and integrity that prompts you to be a roadside bum. And as for your mentioning my tattoos, jealous much?


Thank you for posting on the Leucadia Blog.
There is nothing more powerful on this Earth than an anonymous opinion on the Internet.
Have at it!!!