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Weaning off the seawall solution

The San Diego County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation spearheaded a victory earlier this month in the ongoing battle against seawalls.

In case you’re not aware, Surfrider has long opposed seawalls because they nearly always lead to the destruction of our public beaches in California.

The chapter’s policy manager, Julia Chunn-Heer, and key volunteers led the most recent effort to persuade the California Coastal Commission to ensure that seawalls are periodically reviewed to assess their need and to balance that against their impact to public beaches.

This action was necessary because the commission last year unexpectedly abandoned its previous policy that automatically required seawall permits to expire after 20 years, triggering a review requiring property owners to justify the walls.

Surfrider San Diego and its allies successfully argued that permits for seawalls should not be allowed to exist in perpetuity without some review of their impact. Surfrider also argued that “erodible concrete” doesn’t erode as some seawall builders claim and that its use to patch holes in coastal bluffs should be treated as seawall building, with the associated mitigation requirements.

The commission decided that seawalls (both new and existing) would be reviewed when homeowners wish to expand their beachfront homes or make significant improvements that expand the life of existing coastal structures. It’s important that seawalls are not considered permanent structures that have priority over the health of our public beaches. At some point, with rising sea level, the walls will be obsolete and useless, and should be removed.

This policy victory occurred in conjunction with the commission’s finalization of the Land Use Plan Amendment for the city of Solana Beach, the lone city in San Diego that has yet to comply with the landmark 1976 Coastal Act by adopting a Local Coastal Plan (LCP). With this decision Solana Beach is one step closer to finally having a LCP.