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Mayor Lee Celebrates SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan
Posted Date: 7/26/2012
Mayor Edwin M. Lee today celebrated the completion of the Ocean Beach Master Plan, a landmark climate adaptation plan developed by San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) through a two-year interagency effort to envision a sustainable long-term future for Ocean Beach.

“In recent years, conditions at Ocean Beach have been degraded by severe storms, and the City along with our community and government partners has taken short-term steps to stabilize the National Park, but we need long-term solutions so Ocean Beach remains a destination to be enjoyed for generations to come,” said Mayor Lee. “I congratulate SPUR and all our partners for developing this long-term framework and vision for Ocean Beach.”

“The process of bringing together key stakeholders and community partners sets up a lasting and important collaboration to helps us deal with the real issues of erosion while maintaining both our natural recreational resource and critical infrastructure of Ocean Beach,” said Supervisor Carmen Chu. “I would like to commend SPUR and the many partners for working together to create a plan that will continue to make Ocean Beach a healthy, accessible, sustainable and enjoyable open space for all to enjoy for years to come.”

“The Ocean Beach Master Plan grew out of a decade of community advocacy and represents a collaborative vision of many different public agencies, community groups and advocates,” said SPUR project manager Benjamin Grant. “It tackles serious challenges, including the looming effects of climate change and sea level rise, while improving public access and ecological conditions.”

The SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan lays out an ambitious and proactive vision a 3.5-mile stretch of an urban open space on the Pacific Coast of San Francisco. The plan adapts to the National Park’s rising seas, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystems, and improve public access to this unique open space. The plan addresses coastal management, ecology, and public access through 2050 in the context of severe erosion and climate-induced sea level rise.

The SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan presents a series of recommendations designed to improve and restore conditions at Ocean Beach – even as coastal hazards worsen –by adapting proactively to the changing coastline, including:
·    Reroute Great Highway behind the SF Zoo via Sloat and Skyline Boulevards, replace with a spectacular coastal trail;
·    Protect the Lake Merced tunnel in place, combining limited hard structures with softer cobble and sand;
·    Reduce the width of the Great Highway from Sloat to Lincoln to provide improved visitor amenities and space for coastal retreat;
·    Restore the native dune habitat between Sloat and Lincoln;
·    Improve the connection between Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach, with visitor amenities, improved pedestrian crossings, vegetation; and
·    Significant bicycle and pedestrian improvements north of Balboa.

Given the complex and overlapping Federal, State and local jurisdictions overseeing Ocean Beach, SPUR convened numerous public agencies, stakeholders, advocates and community members to develop the Ocean Beach Master Plan. Three public meetings solicited public input and feedback, presented project research into the complex challenges at Ocean Beach and explored a wide range of solutions. The process built on the work of two community-led task forces over the preceding decade.

Ocean Beach has been subjected to severe erosion by winter storms. In the El Nino winter of 2009-10, storm-driven waves caused bluffs to recede forty feet in some locations, resulting in partial closure of the Great Highway for nearly a year. Emergency coastal armoring (in the form of boulder revetments) has been controversial for its negative impacts on coastal ecology, access and aesthetics. Construction fill (rubble) under the road and parking lot has also crumbled onto the beach.

More challenging still, a major complex of wastewater infrastructure, lies immediately behind many parts of the beach, and is vulnerable to coastal hazards. It protects coastal water quality from combined sewer discharges, which have been reduced from 60-70 per year to fewer than seven after its completion in 1993. This complex includes the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant, the Westside pump station (at Sloat/Great Highway) and large underground storage and conveyance structures, out of sight below the Great Highway. The most vulnerable of these is the Lake Merced Tunnel, a 14-foot diameter pipe under the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard.

The recommendations in the SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan lay out implementation over a period of forty years by numerous different agencies. The cost of the full package of recommendations is estimated at approximately $350 million, which would come from a wide variety of sources. Savings would also be realized, through protection of vulnerable infrastructure and the retention of significant revenues from visitation, which would be compromised were the beach to degrade further.

The SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan is a non-regulatory guidance document developed in close coordination with affected agencies. In January, SPUR was awarded an additional $825,000 from the California State Coastal Conservancy, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the National Park Service to develop implementation studies that will help agencies translate the plan’s recommendations into implementable projects, develop more detailed technical analysis, and conduct environmental review. These studies will include a traffic study, coastal management framework and open space planning. The SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan document is available at: www.spur.org/oceanbeach.

The process of creating the SPUR Ocean Beach Master Plan has helped to improve coordination among responsible agencies at Ocean Beach and is already helping to facilitate improvements in the area. The SFPUC began experimenting last winter with heavy-duty sandbags for coastal protection south of Sloat, a softer approach in lieu of additional boulders in the area most vulnerable to erosion. The SFPUC is also coordinating a project next month with the GGNRA to move significant quantities of excess sand from the North end of Ocean Beach to the sand-starved south end to provide softer, “sacrificial” coastal protection.

This winter, the San Francisco Department of Public Works, working with the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, will be adding planted medians to the Great Highway North of Lincoln Boulevard as part of a streetscape project that includes repaving. These medians will be installed in place of striped paint and will improve pedestrian access & safety, clarify vehicular circulation and improve aesthetics and environmental performance.