Seawall threatens access to beach

ENCINITAS — The Planning Commission was supposed to be presented with a private property owner’s request to rebuild a seawall to buttress two parcels on Neptune Avenue on Aug. 5. Opponents caused the matter to be continued to the Sept. 2 meeting, while other residents were still fuming about the possible closure of Beacon’s Beach access in Leucadia.
In June of this year, the council voted unanimously to request a transfer of a $2.75 million state grant intended for bluff stabilization and improvements at Beacon’s Beach to Moonlight Beach.
City staff brought the issue to the council June 9, in light of an October 2009 letter from the state’s department of parks and recreation that said the Beacon’s project was inconsistent with the State Park General Plan. The creation of a seawall to stabilize the eroding bluff was cited as an overriding concern in correspondence from the state.
Through a 20-year operating agreement, the city maintains both state-owned beaches.
The grant was originally awarded to the city by the California State Parks in 2001. However, the agency expressed concerns about the city’s proposal to install a so-called “toehold bluff stabilization device,” a buried seawall that would be visible four feet above the ground. A letter dated 2004 from state officials to the city clearly states that the use of a seawall is unacceptable. Yet, city officials seemed surprised by the change in position.
Others in the community also voiced opposition to the seawall construction, saying that other alternatives to a seawall should be explored. According to Jim Jaffe, the Surfrider Foundation requested in 2003 that the city consider alternative ways to improve safe access to Beacon’s Beach. In 2006, the organization submitted public comment arguing the impacts of a seawall and noting the prohibition of the stabilization devices in the city’s General Plan.
In the intervening nine years, residents have had their doubts about the future of Beacon’s Beach. “It’s a narrow strip of beach and it’s hard to navigate down the path,” said Leucadia resident Barry Lagos. “I think that’s part of the appeal of this beach; that most tourists don’t flood it and that it’s very local.”
The rugged switchback path down the bluff to the beach is eroding rapidly according to reports from city consultants who studied the possible stabilization measures. But that’s not news to regular beachgoers. “There is a possibility Beacon’s Beach is going to just wash away,” said Dale Stevens, who surfs the area. “I think the city should stop complaining about the state grant and start focusing on doing something to keep this beach open and accessible,” he said.
Councilman Jerome Stocks said during the June meeting that he supported a future discussion on alternative funding strategies to stabilize Beacon’s Beach. Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan backed the idea of creating a steering committee to tackle the issue of access at Beacon’s Beach. She said having some state representation on the panel would be useful.
No action has been taken yet to assemble a panel as suggested by Houlihan.

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