ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Planning Commission will review a new project plan for the restoration of Beacon’s Beach during a virtual meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 18. The multi-permit project aims to preserve the beach access trail by planting native plants along the bluff face to prevent soil erosion.
As previously reported by The Coast News, the city of Encinitas has been grappling for nearly two decades with how to fix the unstable coastal bluff that threatens the switchback staircase and the parking lot atop the coastal bluff at the beach.
Leucadia State Beach, also known as Beacon’s Beach, is a well-known local spot in Encinitas. During summer months, visiting beachgoers struggle to find parking before walking down, and eventually back up, a dirt path to access the beach.
A staircase once provided access to the beach below, but a series of minor landslides caused by winter storms in 1982-83 damaged the structure.
The city originally pursued a seawall at the beach during the 2000s, but the state withdrew the grant in 2009, citing its policy against sea walls.
In October 2018, the city held two workshops to gather public input on how to address the issue. During those sessions, the public voiced a “strong desire” to remove invasive plants and reintroduce native species along the bluff face.
“The overall goal of the (latest) restoration program is to create a self-sustaining, native southern coastal bluff scrub habitat that will stabilize soils, lessen erosion along the bluff and trail, and enable continued access to Beacon’s Beach along the existing trail,” according to the project file.
A 2018 plan involved decreasing parking capacity in the lot above the bluff, moving the lot inland and using a set of stairs to access the beach. The stairs in the previous proposal would have been able to withstand a landslide.
But in December 2019, the Planning Commission voted to deny the project, ruling that the city’s proposal for a wooden staircase was too similar to an earlier concrete version, which locals had ridiculed as a “Las Vegas Skyway.”
Since then, rain events have further damaged the beach access trail, which was repaired in May 2020 with a wood lagging retaining wall, according to the project file. The current plan aims to restore the bluff over the course of two years and avoid new construction altogether.
The updated proposal comes after bluff-related incidents have struck Encinitas beaches over the past two years. Last August, a 40-foot stretch of bluff collapsed at Stone Steps Beach.
Just one year earlier, in August 2019, three women were killed by a cliff collapse at Grandview Beach. Despite warning signs posted along beach access ways, staircases and parking lots, some beachgoers still sit dangerously close to the cliffs and bluffs at Encinitas beaches.
Multiple attempts were made to contact the city’s Associate Planner Todd Mierau for more information about the project, but he failed to respond before publication.