The Coast News Group
The city for two years had tried to get the California Coastal Commission to sign off on its proposed method of stabilizing the bluff — using an erodible soil cement. File photo
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Beacon’s Beach bluff being monitored ‘daily’

ENCINITAS — The California Coastal Commission appears to have become more supportive of Encinitas’ proposed method of stabilizing a notoriously unstable coastal bluff at Beacon’s Beach.

Encinitas officials and officials with the state parks department in February met with Coastal Commission officials to present their preferred alternative, using soil cement to reinforce the bluff. But the coastal commission had reservations about the size and scope of the project.

But Coastal Commission officials said after having time to digest the city’s proposal, they have a better understanding of the project and are “moving closer to a solution.”

“They had proposed a different and a unique way to utilize soil cement, which we refer to as erodible concrete, which we had only seen used in smaller scales,” said Gabriel Buhr, a coastal program manager for the coastal commission. “There proposal to use it as a buttress was something we hadn’t seen before, so we were being somewhat conservative and we went back to them with a number of questions.

“Last month, we had a very productive meeting and it gave us a better appreciate of why they chose this alternative and better presented the other alternatives they had considered and rejected,” Buhr said.

Buhr said the next step will be to evaluate how the city’s preferred alternative fits in with the commission’s plans to combat sea level rise and local efforts to replenish sand along the coast.

“The short answer is yes, we are moving closer, and we recognize that it is a very important and sensitive issue for the city and the coastal commission because it is such an important access point,” Buhr said.

Meanwhile, in advance of El Niño, the city received approval from the Coastal Commission to place a sand berm at the toe of the bluff, which officials hope will keep it stable during the severe weather. City engineers are monitoring the bluff daily to see if the temporary solution is holding.

“We really don’t know what the impacts of the storms could be, but we will have to just take it day-by-day,” Encinitas Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Rudloff said this week. “Staff is out there on a daily basis checking things out, and we are doing the best we can and reacting to the weather.”

The stability of the bluffs atop Beacon’s Beach, which is operated by the city under a 20-year agreement with state parks, drew attention in town in 2001, when a collapse destroyed part of a trail. City officials have long listed the stabilization project as a priority, and shortly after the 2001 incident state parks awarded the city a $2.75 million grant to stabilize the area.

City officials in 2009 honed in on a seawall as the preferred method to shore up the bluff, but the state withdrew the grant, citing its policy against sea walls.

Officials fear that another bluff collapse could damage that bluff top parking lot and the trail that winds down the 100-foot bluff to the beach below.