This is the first of what will be a dozen or so posts from San Diego, the consequence of two days tucked onto the end of a four day estuaries conference - and a few hours before.
Like many urban harbors, San Diego's modern bayfront in no way follows the original shoreline of mud flats, salt pans, low energy beaches, and estuarine marsh, having been dredged and filled into new shapes that make building ports, developing land easier, and parking aircraft carriers easier. The resulting edge is steep and extends into deeper water, so the reclaimed land will erode if left to its own.
I guess this is why riprap was invented. Aesthetics are tricky, since opinions depend on the context and on the beholder as much as the actual revetment. I find some applications appealing, others horrible. I understand its practical benefits. But some of my gripes are it's ubiquitousness, the lack of imagination it often reflects, its contrast to the native ecological setting, and its impact on people's ability to actually interact with the water.