10 • 01 • 2019

Save Santa Cruz Beaches and Waves from Sea Level Rise

Save Pleasure Point surf break from a proposed Seawall Exception Area.

Santa Cruz County, which includes the Opal Cliffs community adjacent to Pleasure Point surf break, is currenty updating its local coastal program (LCP) for sea level rise adapation and it includes a number of policies that would perpetuate reliance upon shoreline armoring, effectively drowning already narrow beaches and the waves by fixing the back of the beach/bluffs. Most notably, the County is proposing a Seawall Exception Area that would allow all new development to rely on seawalls, contrary to the Coastal Act provisions.

The draft LCP update has been approved by the board of supervisors and is awaiting review by the California Coastal Commision - the agency responsible for final certification under the Coastal Act. A hearing is scheduled for the October 2022 Coastal Commission meeting.

Throughout the draft process at the county level, Surfrider's Santa Cruz chapter had made a number of recommendations which have thus far not been incorporated into the update. 

1. Remove the Seawall Exception Area from the proposed LCP update. The County's update currently includes a Seawall Exception Area along Pleasure Point and Opal Cliffs. This proposed policy is an unprecedented attack on the Coastal Act's provisions that ensure new development and major remodels may not rely on seawalls. This is a crucial law that ensures that as our coast erodes and sea levels rise, our beaches and waves can migrate inland. Otherwise, if we fix the back of the beach, our beaches and waves will drown as the high tides meets the seawall over time.

2. The update should define existing development and redevelopment as described in accordance with the Coastal Commission’s definition - existing structures are those built before January 1, 1977. To that end, new development and redevelopment must not be allowed to rely on existing shoreline armoring. To define it otherwise will unlawfully perpetuate our reliance on shoreline armoring, effectively drowning our waves and beaches as sea levels rise. We have to set ourselves up for smart, multi-benefit long-term adaptation solutions that will protect access, important habitats and recreational opportunities.

3. Where shoreline armoring is unavoidable and legal, the update should implement sand mitigation fees for existing pre- Coastal Act development as well, to fund and benefit public access and recreation. Most importantly, we recommend that the fees directly apply to properties in the Pajaro dunes and Rio Del Mar area, where the most sand stands to be lost—far more so than the mudstone coast of Opal Cliffs.

4. The Shoreline management plan must include evaluation of managed retreat and relocation of structures, and identification of funding mechanisms in order to facilitate the process, much in line with the recommendations of the LAO Sea Level Rise report.

5. The update must also require that soft armoring and living shoreline adaptation solutions be evaluated.  We insist on the implementation living shorelines such as dune restoration where feasible, and the use of opportunistic sand, including the beneficial reuse of sediment.

Surfrider is closely tracking this update and will be fighting for the best possible outcome over the coming months.

Coast & Climate