Monday, April 13, 2009

Steve Aceti: Double Agent

I found the following editorial in the Encinitas Historical Society's archives. It was published years ago by The Coast News. I wanted to link to it but I couldn't find it in their archives, so I typed it up.

It is written by Steve Aceti who runs the California Coastal Coalition (CalCoast). Now that it is clear that Aceti represents bluff-top property owners (like the Gordons on Neptune). I look at his editorial less as conciliatory and more as manipulative.

Seawall Opponents: Missing the Real Battle
I begin this column with its conclusion: I do not like seawalls, but an acknowledgment that we will continue to see them built until the real problem, the one that makes shore protection devices part of our life is solved- beach erosion.

Last week, the LA Times ran a front-page article condemning seawalls and the "wealthy home owners" who request them. The article trotted out a simplistic, not to mention false, idea that residential seawalls are causing our beaches to disappear.

Coastal homeowners are an easy target, but the fact is that much more damaging things have been done in the coastal zone which have led to the disappearance of beaches up and down the coast. Have you driven Highway 101 or PCH lately?

They are two of the biggest dams in the State in terms of keeping sand from the beaches the parallel. And they are not part of the problem that the state and federal projects have created. This is not just a private landowners issue, although that's the way the die has been cast.

[Blogger's Note: The sand researchers I've spoken too say it is a suburban myth that San Elijo and Batiquitos would be productive sand sources if the train and roads were removed. Those estuaries were/are sediment traps not sources. The data has been available longer than I think Steve has been in California.]

No one likes seawalls, but the issue is more complicated than it looks. Residential seawalls are more obvious than some of the other culprits in the case of the disappearing shoreline so they take the most heat. But you could remove all the homes from the coast and you still wouldn't have nice, sandy beaches.

[If attracting tourists to come to our beaches is Steve's goal he needs to be careful because even nice seawalls detract from the sense of place that brings people to visit Encinitas. Natural beauty, not concrete jungle, is a tourist-oriented asset.]
From a distance the Solana Beach seawalls
blend in and are better than the ones
in Leucadia, aesthetically. When closer tourists
still know they aren't natural.

Coastal highways, inland dams, concrete riverbeds, harbor jetties and the like are prevent millions of cubic yards of sand from getting to the beach. The amount of sand held back from a residential seawall is microscopic in comparison. In face of a severely eroding shore-line, property owners are seeking permits for seawalls and other structures.

[We would still have bluff erosion and cobblestones in some years if we returned the coast to its wild state. When sand levels are low bluff generated sediment grows increasingly important, even if small fraction of the total sand budget. I'm not advocating planned retreat, just pointing out that Aceti likes to play both sides.]

The opponents of seawalls prefer a strategy known as "planned retreat" allowing the shore and bluff to erode without intervention. For many activists, however, that also includes good intervention, such as sand nourishment. Planned retreat is one of many planning tools that should be used along the coast where it is appropriate. Some homes and public facilities are in the wrong place and they should be moved or removed. But, the ocean is a dynamic environment and a one-size-fits-all approach to at he challenges along the coast will not work.

The face-off between proponents of planned retreat and homeowners incites an expensive ware of the experts in a never-ending debate over the merits of shore protection devices. There are no winners in the fight and the current debate (like the Times article) avoids the real issue: how to rebuild the shoreline so that seawalls, revetments and the like are unnecessary.

[Maybe we decide to do that, but we should not be fooled into thinking we are "restoring nature's patterns", because what is being advocated is barracaiding the coast with sand levels beyond the wild condition and making the taxpayer pay for it.]

The answer is easy. Put sand on the beaches and maintain them, both by restoring the natural flow of sediment to the shore (to the extent possible) and through artificial means (see Santa Monica, Coronado, Mission Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach). Wide, sandy beaches will go a long way toward solving the problem, which makes it surprising that many of the groups that oppose seawalls don't support beach nourishment legislation.

[Aceti acknowledges that those wide beaches are man-made and that they are a solution to his real problem. Sometimes he spins the issue as a lack of sand for tourists but his solutions are optimized for bluff-top property owners' and not the taxpayer, and definately not the most common user of the beach–surfers.]

It is difficult to implement a strategy of planned retreat in the urban setting which prevails along most to the shoreline in the central and other regions of California. It would be great to allow the shoreline to just take its course, except that one major piece of the equation has been missing: an ongoing source of sediment to replace the sand that has washed out to sea or in the ocean canyons.

[Wouldn't bluff retreat help increase the sand that tourists could sit on? Here is a quote about some recent research, "[The] results call into question the conventional wisdom that coastal bluffs don't contribute much to the beaches," said Scott Ashford, a professor of structural engineering at UCSD.]

Before the construction of federal marine navigation projects, dams, highways, mall and parking lots, there was an adequate supply of sand reaching the shore through natural means.

[Coastal bluff erosion has been happening for millions of years and is part of the wild system. We even have pictures of it happening early in this century. Aceti is advocating that man-made projects block a source of our beach's sand. Why the inconsistency? Don't get me wrong. I don't subscribe to the "return our ecosystems to the wild condition" ideology, because we can't and because we don't optimize the use of our natural resources that way. It is just that something about CalCoast doesn't add up. ]

Since this is no longer the case, allowing the shoreline to erode at will is like jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

[I think he means it is like building a house in a floodplain.]

We can't expect beaches to fight this fight without some ammo. Another issue: what do we do with all the public infrastructure that has been built along the coast?

[Steve Aceti has a good point about the public infrastructure. We should be consistent with the way we look at private and public assets. Just for fun, I'll point out that the State Parks hasn't been armoring their Encinitas property with seawalls.]

Until we get off the adversarial "us versus them" merry-go-round, we will never have the types of solutions that our counterparts on the East Coast have to maintain their shorelines.

[I am sure that is easy for Aceti to say that since he represents two sides. Aceti clearly does not represent the dominant users of our beaches–surfers.]


  1. The fact is that, in the United States of America, we have something called property rights.

    If you don't like the sea-walls...too bad!

    It is well within their right to protect their PROPERTY and all these eco-whackjobs will bitch and scream that it is "unattractive."

    Cry me a river.

    J.P doesn't own a property on Neptune. They are well within their rights to build sea walls and a lot of property owners don't even have them.

    I think that these seawalls should be well built, attractive and have some plants.

    To suggest that we should ban all sea walls is straight out of the book of insanity.

    It's their property, not with it!

    Even a family friend who is a full blown liberal is appalled at the SurfRider's stance on these sea walls. He said that it is all about property rights.

    If you don't like it....well too bad.

  2. Too bad, private property? Like George Bush & friends buying the water table in Paraguay: the future post oil wars will be over water rights where the masses starve and die of thirst: "but it's private property." This attitude will have you hanging from a stick.

  3. Money makes whores out of a lot of people. Usually bluff edge owners have lots of money and there are consultants and attorneys on both sides of the issue willing to degrade themselves for a buck.
    Most of the seawalls along the coast look horriable but can be made to look somewhat natural. I find it sad that wealthy newcomers will buy a house on the bluff and the first thing they do is start watering and then wonder why it is failing. Zero common sense.

  4. Anon 11:13,

    Are you telling private property owners how to build their private seawalls?

    Just to clarify the point of my post: I'm not saying property rights should be trumped. I'm just saying that the taxpayer should not be paying a lobbyist to to represent the interests of a small set of private property owners.

  5. I like what the east coast does. No seawalls allowed and as a result their beaches are much more beautiful.

    No seawalls allowed. Why can people on the west coast be as smart. Planned retreat makes sense to me.

  6. What does our host think should be done?

  7. Kevin-You worry about catching the perfect wave and I'll worry about my ocean front bluff top home. If that means building a sea wall, then so be it.
    As for your last statement "the dominate users of the beach-surfers" BULL SHIT!! On any given day the dominate users of the beach are beach goers NOT surfers!!

    I always find it amazing that surfers always try to control what happens to the beach and who uses the beach. Shit, half of you lunk heads can't control the board you ride.

    Don't tell me how to protect my home(or my family for that matter) and I won't tell you how to ride that wave.

  8. Anon 11:13--

    Property rights here in the United States of America do not give you the right to erect anything you want on your property. And the Supreme Court's decisions about "Takings" is unlikely to support your argument.

    When you stand at the edge of your property and look down at the water lapping at the foot of the bluff, do you ever wonder how much further west you would have been standing 200 years earlier? Does it ever occur to you that the natural erosion of the bluffs is what keeps the beach a beach? So are you saying that for you to keep your home on the bluff I should be willing to give up the beach for my grandchildren?

    Don't be a lunk head.

  9. The private property argument, usually coupled with the right to sleep with semi-automatic guns, is based on fear, fanned by AM radio, an argument needing to be stamped-out when it affects the majority; it's call selfishness.

  10. Back east the Federal Gov steps in each year and pays for sand replenishment up and down the eastern seaboard. Welfare for the rich elite.
    Just because you live on the bluff doesn't make you a genius regarding the sand issue. All that crappy sand fills in the reefs causing the sea life to leave or die and the surf to suck. Wave action on seawalls cause sand to leave the beaches and fill the reefs and underwater canyons.

  11. Anonymous #1 J.P. didn't write this post. Suck it douchebag.

  12. It's the liberal elite Neptune bluff owners who want to gentrify Leucadia with their gay little roundabouts.

  13. I hope your ugly ass Neptune house falls into the sea on top of Kevin and JP. Problems solved.

  14. To Anonymous Property rights

    You may have the right to build on your property but you do not have the "right" to drive your trucks on the public beach or put the foundation of your seawall on the public beach. You need to buy the land, get a lease and get a permit. Those should not be granted.

    Building a seawall on the public beach is no different than if you wanted to build a fence in the middle of the street in front of your house to protect your garden.

    I suggest you review the following in your Constitutional arguments as well.


    SEC. 4. No individual, partnership, or corporation, claiming or possessing the frontage or tidal lands of a harbor, bay, inlet,estuary, or other navigable water in this State, shall be permitted
    to exclude the right of way to such water whenever it is required for any public purpose, nor to destroy or obstruct the free navigation of such water; and the Legislature shall enact such laws as will give the most liberal construction to this provision, so that access to the navigable waters of this State shall be always attainable for the people thereof."

  15. Aceiti and every home owner arguing for seawalls are the exact same people who strip mine public lands for coal in West Virginia. They are the same bankers who had a hand in wrecking the economy, then took tax dollars to cover their salary checks. The are the same lobbyists who help make these crimes possible. Only, it's on a smaller scale.

    These people built or own in a flood plain. They want to use our tax dollars on sea walls and construction sand to protect their investments and in doing so leave NO beach for the citizens, or faux beaches which kill the citizen's wildlife and many aspects of their recreational resources.

    When will we stop the lobbying that allows the rich few to rape the resources that belong to all of us?

  16. Anon 7:29,

    Stop giving taxpayer dollars to lobbyists who don't represent the voters and are unnecessary. We have assemblymen and senators in Sacramento to represent us and newspapers to inform us.

    Regarding the seawall issue, if it is a private property issue then let's leave that way. If it is a public resource issue it gets a little dicey and I don't know. On the other hand if the entire county has to pay a sales tax to build devices and bring sand in protect bluff top property then that causes a problem for me and makes it a public policy issue. Just watch as Taxpayer funded Steve becomes a huge cheerleader for the coming sand tax.

    Anon 8:10
    I think that the public should be able to decide if private property owners can bring their construction equipment across public property. That’s seems like a no brainier to me and should be rationally acceptable to other private property advocates.

  17. Why not have Christo make a 2 mile mosaic?

  18. Seawalls negatively affect public land and public property.

    That's what the home owner who posted here doesn't want to admit. To protect his home, he must take the beach away from tens of thousands of citizens.

    Same with sand. To protect his home, he must ruin recreational activities of surfing and fishing and snorkeling, to protect one family's home.

    What gives him the right to destroy our resources? His lobbyist, and his money that's what.

  19. I am not in favor of seawalls or excessive sand replenishment, particularly when "dirt" is used, which is a different consistency and which is carbon based, not silica based, as is sand.

    Sure, in days gone past, before jetties and piers and blufftop development, more "dirt" was processed into sand by mixing with existing sand, and by the waves battering rocks on the beach, and through rivers and streams emptying into the ocean.

    I'm not an expert, but Steve Aceti is a well paid lobbyist, whose primary function is to armor the coastline to protect his clients whom the Coastal Commission does NOT ALLOW to have seawalls, except in emergency situations.

    People buying on the bluff have to have disclosures of the bluff's instability. Many of them cannot get insurance, or if they did, the insurance companies, through AIG, are also propped up by public funds.

    There was a recent Reader article, I think mentioned by Joe Sheffo at one of the forums, where Aceti also said he was for creating an artificial reef? That would further destroy surfing conditions.

    I know a few people who post on this blog who may take walks up and down Neptune, or chat at the top of Beacons, but are NOT avid beachgoers.

    Both beach walkers and surfers do not want the surfing destroyed by too much sand. As I've said, the entire bottom flight of stairs at Stonesteps is now buried under ugly black dirt, not real sand, thanks to BIG SAND and Aceti's connections with the three man majority on Council, as well as other public officials in Carlsbad, and elsewhere.

    It was interesting to look at Betsy Aceti's campaign statements, before she mysteriously dropped out of the race, but not before further dividing a much contested race, which started with 10 candidates for three council positions.


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!!!