Sunday, April 29, 2007

Swamis Rip Rap, a Beacon's bluff solution?

Swamis beach March 2007

San Diego Union Tribune story about the Swamis "riprap" boulders which have done a dang good job of keeping the bluff stable.

On the edge of a solution for bluffs

Fellowship successful in preventing collapse

The story includes a history of the Self-Realization Fellowship's efforts to stabilize the Swami's bluffs.

Personally I like the riprap. I grew up hanging out on those boulders and always wondered why it wasn't used in Solana Beach.

In the 1980s, the fellowship came up with a simple three-pronged plan to stop the bluff collapses:

Drill wells and install pumps to send groundwater away from the bluff face and into a city storm drain that runs through the fellowship grounds.

Plant deep-rooted vegetation on the bluff face to hold the sand together.

Build a 1,500-foot-long wall of boulders, or riprap, at the toe of the bluffs to dissipate the crashing waves.

From the article:

Not an easy start

Before the system was installed, things were less than serene under the fellowship's lawns.

Water accumulated under the low-lying Second and K streets adjacent to the grounds and crept westward, leading to the collapse of the temple, said Steve Aceti, (dude, Aceti is everywhere!) government and community relations representative for the fellowship.

In 1981, the monastics got permission from the then-San Diego Coast Regional Commission – later replaced by the umbrella California Coastal Commission – to build the riprap wall at the bottom of the bluff. The ring of protective boulders cost the fellowship $270,900. (That is a good price. I wonder what riprap cost these days? I bet it is cheaper than building a seawall)

That same year, in an apparently misguided effort to smooth out and stabilize the bluffs, the fellowship graded them without a permit. (Barratt American CEO Michael D Pattinson would be proud. He says if you grade your property with a bulldozer without a permit then you are a great American hero like Rosa Parks) link

Workers suspended a bulldozer from a crane at the blufftop and ended up causing 3,500 square feet of bluff between J and K streets to topple under the weight of the heavy equipment, a San Diego Coast Regional Commission report stated. (Yeah, well...Heroes slice through the red tape)

The fellowship was fined $15,000, an unprecedented amount at the time, and ordered to plant vegetation on the bluff face.

The monks and nuns experimented with 51 varieties of plants and narrowed their choice to acacia and atriplex breweri, also known as saltbush, because they are drought-resistant and can tolerate salt air. The revegetation project cost $2,400. (I believe that vegetation is the key to stabilizing the bluff at Beacon's Beach. Let's plant some acacia and atriplex asap)

Local residents who are familiar with it are so impressed that they have suggested that the city replicate it at the popular Beacon's Beach in Leucadia. City officials are examining how to shore up the crumbling 85-foot-tall bluffs that are threatening a parking lot at the top and a trail down the cliff face. (see photos at bottom of post comparing Swami's and Beacon's)

The city has taken the suggestion into consideration and is drafting a final environmental review for the Beacon's project. However, city engineers say the geological structure of the Beacon's bluffs may be different from the fellowship's, and for now, they suggest a sea wall. (No, No, No! A seawall is just going to get the city sued by the Surfrider Foundation and it's costly, exceeding the state grant money by millions and we don't need it anyway. The city engineers need to chill on the seawall.)

Not everyone is a fan of the fellowship's measures.

Todd Cardiff, an advisory board member of the Surfrider Foundation's San Diego chapter, criticizes the riprap for taking up beach space that could have been used for recreation. (Todd Cardiff is out of mind here. The riprap takes up too much space and prohibits recreation? That is absurd. Bro, I grew up building forts on the Swami's riprap. That is where the locals hang out. We put on our boards on it, sit up on it giving a good view of the surf, the riprap is great and the locals have adapted to it) Cardiff also contends that it keeps the ocean from doing its natural job – eroding the bluffs to make sand for beaches.

(This whole "we need the bluffs to erode as quickly as possible" movement needs to end. If guys like Todd Cardiff had their way the Beacon's bluff would be eroded all the way to Gary Murphy's house by now)

“We prefer that everybody locate structures far enough away from the bluffs to not need bluff-protection devices,” Cardiff said. (Should we move the Swamis parking lot east of the coast highway?)

I think that riprap and vegetation are superior to a seawall at Beacon's. What do you think?

Riprap works great for Swamis...

but can it help Beacon's which has a more sloped bluff down to the beach? The Beacon's bluff is obviously eroding from the top. Shoring up the top with drainage and vegetation might be more effective than riprap at the base of the bluff.

SEE ALSO: aerial view of Swami's.


  1. I'll take the landscaping, but not a seawall.

    Riprap is another form of toe of slope protection. I agree with Surfrider on the erosion issues. I also feel that riprap is better than a riged seawall, but don't really like either.

  2. There is rip rap along some parts of the san elijo campgrounds. I think it's ugly but so are sea walls. Plants are the best solution.

  3. Another less than factually correct article by Angela Lau. There is a picture of the fallen temple on page 86 of the Gerald Kuhn/Francis Shepard book "Sea Cliffs, Beaches, and Coastal Valleys of San Diego County." The subtitle is "Some Amazing Histories and Some Horrifying Implications."

    The photo shows the temple most of the way down the bluff. The only reason it's not at water level is that it is sitting on top of the huge landslide. The caption says, "The temple collapse in the early 1940s [1941] following significant sea storms accompanied by intense sediment saturation of the bluff top." It doesn't look like there was much to salvage. The period from 1936-1946 was unusually rainy.

    The rising water table problem began later. Again from the book: "Piezometers, placed in wells on the site, clearly indicate a rise in the water table beginning in about 1973, commensurate with the inland urbanization. This rise began during the end of a drought period that lasted from 1946 to 1977." Then the heavy rains began again with resulting bluff failure, aggravated by high groundwater.

    And the "Horrifying Implications" from the subtitle? Simply that the bluffs of San Diego County are deceptively stable during dry periods, which are more frequent than wet periods, but these bluffs become very unstable during prolonged rainy periods. Mother Nature will exact her price in the long term. The authors were affiliated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

  4. I have seen pictures of swamis before the rip rap. The beach was so much more inspirational. It looked natural and integrated with the ocean. The rip rap isn't all that bad, but it is a detriment to the aesthetics.

  5. Concerned CardiffianApril 29, 2007 3:59 PM

    Just south of Swamis there is a long stretch of riprap going to the north end of Cardiff State Park. This was put in after a large piece of the bluff collapsed along Highway 101 in 1958. One lane was lost for a distance of over 300 feet. Because this was the main highway north to Los Angeles, it had to be fixed.

    The blame was put on groundwater and drains were installed. They are still there constantly pouring out water. The bluffs look dangerously saturated with water all year long. Plus the galvanized drain pipes from the highway are badly corroded. The bluffs are eroding to an alarming degree because the water flows under the pipe instead of through it.

    Would it be possible for the city to put some of its excess money into fixing this problem? Otherwise the road will fall into the ocean again.

  6. Personally, I like the modern bluff protection systems - the ones that look natural. When planted, they look great. I wish the Coastal Commision would let eveyone finish their walls in Leucadia, by the way. The ones that are half-done are worse than the ones that are done. Why does it take so long to get anything done when the Coastal Commision in involved?

    I do not think that the theory that eroding bluffs are the answer to sand replenishment. That is just not true, and it is unfortunate that people support letting people's personal property fall off into the ocean, endangering people on the beach.

    I would like to see modern systems installed that look natural and then modest sand replenisment projects as needed. That would really bring peace to our cool little beach town.

  7. show me a place where the fake bluffs don't look fake.

    What is the answer to sand replenishment?

  8. I think what Self-Realization did to solve the erosion problem showed great ingenuity and foresight.

  9. This one is going to hurt Leucadia BadApril 29, 2007 10:27 PM

    Talk about fricken traffic jamms in Encinitas!

    Draft environmental report on Ponto area out for review

    By: BARBARA HENRY - Staff Writer

    CARLSBAD -- An environmental report on the Ponto beachfront area is now out in draft form, Carlsbad officials said last week, roughly two years after an intense public outcry prompted the city to launch the study.

    Generally, the document finds that proposed development plans for Ponto -- 50 acres on Carlsbad's southwestern border -- "may result in a significant impact on the environment." However, most of the potential problems could be eased to the point that they are "less than significant," it continues.

    The new draft is massive -- the information is contained in seven huge, bound volumes that can be reviewed at the city's two libraries as well as the city clerk's office and the city's planning department.

    "What makes up the bulk of it is the technical appendices," or supporting research for the document, senior planner Christer Westman said last week.

    Public comment will be collected on the document until a May 29 deadline, and officials are expecting an earful. The city's planning department already has been contacted by Ponto-area neighbors, an environmental legal organization and the Surfrider Foundation, Westman said.

    Those are the same folks that were involved two years ago in the push to get the city to produce the document.

    "Our biggest concern is always going to be traffic and noise," said resident Victor Ramirez, who lives in the 112-unit Hanover Beach Colony development just north of the Ponto area.

    Meanwhile, representatives of the Surfrider Foundation said that they were interested in multiple issues covered in the document, including everything from what the development will do to Batiquitos Lagoon to what will happen to the public parking spots that are regularly used by surfers.

    Their comments will be incorporated in a final report that is expected to go before the city's Planning Commission for a public hearing in July.

    Making development plans

    A mostly vacant region, Ponto contains a few tiny industrial shops and homes on its western border near Carlsbad Boulevard. Its eastern boundary is the railroad tracks, while to the south is Batiquitos Lagoon and to the north is the Hanover Beach Colony.

    Passing motorists on Carlsbad Boulevard typically know Ponto as that area with the huge fenced-in wood pile near the roadway. Surfers seeking waves at the famed Ponto Beach know Ponto Drive as a good place to find a vacant parking spot.

    Over the years, developers have bought up much of land in the region, and the row of industrial businesses is generally on leased land. There are tentative plans to put three hotels, a resort complex, condominiums and retail shops within the Ponto region. One of those proposals, a roughly 200-room Hilton hotel, has a pending application with the city's planning department, Westman said.

    Because of the private proposals to develop the area, the city began looking into creating a regional planning document several years ago. The goal was to guide the various, independent development efforts so that the city would have projects that looked as if they belonged together, city officials have said.

    Their Ponto Beachfront Vision Plan detailed where the hotels would go, what the public access points would be and even what decorative elements the structures might have. When they released the plan, city officials argued that they didn't need to do a separate environmental impact report on the document, arguing that each developer would do their own environmental report as their individual projects moved forward.

    A coalition of nearby residents, surfers and others disagreed with that position and pushed the city to change its mind. In July 2005, the City Council decided to pursue the environmental report.

    Fixing the problems

    The new draft report finds that many of the effects of development could be reduced -- or in planning lingo, "mitigated" -- to less than significant levels, including ones related to traffic, noise and biological issues.

    To make up for disturbing natural habitat, the report outlines options such as buying off-site habitat-protection areas and making payments into special city funds. To make up for impacts to 1.2 acres of coastal sage scrub habitat, plans should be made to buy 2.4 acres of similar habitat in other parts of the city, the report states.

    Ways to cope with anticipated increases in traffic include improving the La Costa Avenue/Carlsbad Boulevard intersection to allow two left-turn lanes and two through-traffic lanes.

    There are two things that will provide "significant, unavoidable impacts," the report finds. One is noise associated with construction work. The second trouble spot is air-quality issues -- during construction and after, it states.

    Air quality and traffic are standard unresolvable problems in environmental reports across the region, city senior planner Christer Westman said. That's because the region is already struggling with those issues, he said.

    "One project is not going to be able to mitigate the region's (existing) issue with air quality, and it's the same thing with traffic," he said.

    Campaigning for changes

    Several people who have been keeping an eye on Ponto development plans for several years said last week that they have just gotten the report and expect to spend the next several weeks going through the document.

    "I haven't even cracked open page one yet," said Todd Cardiff of the Encinitas-based Coast Legal Group. "I'll probably start this weekend."

    Key concerns for Cardiff, who serves on the Surfrider Foundation's advisory board, are water quality, traffic and public access, he said.

    "I can say that I look forward to looking at this ... and putting in comments," he said.

    The Surfrider Foundation wants to make certain that Ponto development plans won't harm the nearby beach and famed surf spot, but the group is also interested in making sure that public access to the Ponto area continues, chapter coordinator Bill Hickman said.

    "Traditionally, it's been an area where people can walk their dogs," he said of the resort portion of region, which has recently been fenced off.

    Meanwhile, Ramirez of the Hanover Beach Colony is campaigning for the entrance to one of the proposed hotels to be off Carlsbad Boulevard rather than Ponto Drive, as proposed. Otherwise, the entrance his development and the hotel will right near each other, he said.

    His fellow Hanover Beach residents aren't opposed to developing the area -- they'd want the ramshackle collection of buildings that currently exist to go away, Ramirez added. But, they don't want traffic congestion right at their front entryway, he said.

    -- Contact staff writer Barbara Henry at (760) 901-4072 or

    Where to write:

    Send comments on Carlsbad's draft environmental impact report for the Ponto Beachfront Village Vision Plan to Christer Westman, Carlsbad Planning Department, 1635 Faraday Ave., Carlsbad, CA 92008.

    To view copies of the document:

    Visit the city clerk's office, 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive; the Cole Library, 1250 Carlsbad Village Drive; Carlsbad's main library, 1775 Dove Lane; or the city's planning department, 1635 Faraday Ave.

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    Comments On This Story

    Note: Comments reflect the views of readers and not necessarily those of the North County Times or its staff.
    old timer wrote on April 29, 2007 6:39 AM:"Ramirez can back to where he came from. Those "ramshackle" buildings were there long before his sardine can development went in. If his real estate agent told him those buildings would be going then he should sue. That is private property and anyone even thinking about having the goverment come in and steal the property should have their property taken instead... so we can get rid of all the newbees who should have moved to sterile Irvine instead of north san diego."

    Agree with Old Timer wrote on April 29, 2007 10:25 AM:"I've been glad to see that the vacant land aka "dog park" was fenced off. Property owners of the vacant land should have been charging the trespassers all these years."

    JP wrote on April 29, 2007 11:14 AM:"Ramirez of the Hanover Beach Colony is the classic new NIMBY. He lives in the shiny new generic development right ontop of the coast highway and claims he is concerned about traffic noise. Then he says he wants the original property owners with their cool hotrod projects to "go away". So this Ramirez cat doesn't want his little world to be affected by traffic but he has no problem watching another American lose his private property. You know w. hat I think Ramirez? I think your ... little Hanover community should be bulldozed and made into a Wal Mart or a Costco or Sea World"

  10. Long Time LeucadianApril 29, 2007 10:28 PM

    Hey Ramirez and you other box home babyboomers, quit cutting through Encinitas at 60 mph to get to your job in SD to make your mortgage for that million dollar cardboard ugly box you bought. Waite on I5 like you’re supposed too. YOU are the traffic problem. I wish Carlsbad would have done something really cool with the whole Ponto area, but like always it sold out to developers’ bottom line which gave us ugly box central.


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