Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Linda Mar Beach

Pacifica State Beach, or Linda Mar Beach, after this part of Pacifica, was the last stop of my short Pacifica tour. A lot has been written about this beach - largely related to a project in the early 2000s that dealt with at-risk structures, stormwater, dune rehabilitation, and the mouth of San Pedro Creek. 


It's cited as an example of "managed retreat," a coastal strategy that aims to remove vulnerable structures and allows beaches to widen and shorelines to retreat, while managing the adverse impacts to coastal infrastructure. In this way, it is seen by many as a more logical and ultimately more affordable approach to chronic erosion and rising sea levels than an escalating battle to fortify development. To others, particularly those that have a lot invested in that vulnerable development, this is described as giving in to nature and as threatening the vitality of coastal communities. I think a lot of this is about people's time frames and about balancing public costs and private benefits. I guess if this was easy, it wouldn't be such a critical public policy issue.

Some quick observations --- that mostly avoid the controversy. Most of this beach has a wide backshore and dunes. The bathhouse remains, and looks pretty vulnerable, but hasn't led to extensive armor -- at least yet.

The most interesting area to me was the southernmost end, beyond the mouth of San Pedro Creek. The row of small homes on pilings looks exceedingly vulnerable - maybe that's what gives it its character - but there will eventually be a reckoning. Meanwhile, this end of the beach is also marked by a distinct cobble berm, which might provide some hints to less intrusive ways of protecting some of these places - or at least buy some time.

The tag line for this blog suggests its about Puget Sound, but the last post from Puget Sound was from Whidbey Island, last July (Double Bluff). Since then, I've wandered to the Gulf Islands (almost Puget Sound), to Utah (the Spiral Jetty, at Promontory Point), to Rhode Island, and most recently, to California. I think I'm going to finally get back to Puget Sound this week (probably Whidbey Island again). Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sharp Park

The northern portion of Pacifica is dominated by high bluffs, but the southern part is divided into a series of low bank reaches, separated by high rocky headlands. Sharp Park is one of these low neighborhoods. Beach Boulevard follows the water atop an impressive seawall. The fishing pier is high enough to stay clear of all but the largest winter waves - conditions were a little rougher on my previous visit (January 2013).


Laguna Salada lies behind the barrier beach south of here. A riprap sea dike protects the lagoon and the golf course from big storms - at least for the moment. It's too bad the rock dike couldn't be replaced with an artificial dune, but for that to work, I suspect it would also have to be shifted farther inland, which might require changes to the golf course. So it's not likely to happen until a lot more money has been spent beefing up the rock. Fortunately, not every year is an El Nino. 

For another post about eroding beaches and golf courses:
Doughmore Beach: 2018

Pacifica - Palmetto Avenue

Moving south from Esplanade Avenue, the bluffs drop a little, but the edge just gets more ragged. This stretch includes an RV park, mobile homes, car repair shops, and a recycling yard, plus a few houses - a strange mix of land uses in such a spectacular setting. But maybe it simply reflects an awareness of the inevitability of the geography.


I visited here more than 15 years ago and things were falling off the edge then. But now the conveyor is delivering new stuff to the sea. I suppose this will go along for a long time. I guess it will always be a mess.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pacifica - Esplanade Avenue

Someday people will stop building stuff right on the edge of the sea. Or if they do, they won't be so surprised when the ocean arrives. They won't expect their community to buy their house or to pay to demolish their apartment building. They will accept the loss, pay to have it removed before it ruins someone else's beach, and treat it as they would a subscription that runs out in few years or a poorly built bicycle that falls apart. Someday, but not yet.

Buildings along Esplanade Avenue were already hanging on the edge long before the 2016-2017 El Nino arrived with its winter storms and high tides. Here are some shots from my last visit (Gravel Beach: January 2013). Since then, several structures have been removed and a great deal more rock has been placed or rearranged along the beach.


There's plenty of video and news coverage of Pacifica from the past few years (easy to find online), but here are a couple of drone videos that I particularly liked:
January 2016
July 2017

The next few posts will be from a little farther south along Pacifica's coastline.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Devil's Slide

The western ridge of Montara Mountain sticks out into the sea just south of Pacifica and for most of the last century the road used to skirt the steep, unstable cliffs above the ocean. But increasingly frequent closures led to the opening, in 2013, of a tunnel that bypasses the worst of Devil's Slide.


The road is now closed to cars, but remains open to foot and bike traffic. At least until the next big slide.

The old bunker just south of Devil's Slide


The low bluff along this stretch of Half Moon Bay's coastline is gradually retreating - as bluffs do. As it does, it leaves this armored stretch of beach standing proud. The road and the houses remain, for the time being, but most the beach is gone - and tough to get to without walking around.

The photos provide a pretty good idea of what the original shoreline looked like and where it wants to go. Mirada Road will get awfully expensive to maintain over time. I suspect the cost is spread broadly, whereas the benefit is disproportionately small - at least that's the way it works on most developed shorelines.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Pelican Point Beach

I wasn't sure whether to title this post Pelican Point Beach or Miramontes Point, but the beach won out - because this is a blog about beaches more than it is a blog about big hotels perched on the edge of the sea.


I joined the small crowd of paying guests and riff raff (like me) wandering down to the beach south of the hotel. A stairway leads down to the beach itself - the lower landing was propped up on a small suite of jacks, suggesting that the riprap had settled a couple of feet (big rock often does this in settings like this - making it's use as a foundation dicey).

Note the use of both riff raff and riprap in the preceding paragraph - the terms are occasionally confused.

Maybe on a future visit, I'll walk north around the Point to Three Rocks Beach. I'd like to check out the efforts that have been made to maintain Miramontes Point for posterity.  I could see some of the structure from the top and found you get a better view (but still somewhat mysterious) from the air (Aerial: California Coastal Records Project).

A couple of notes on public access to the shoreline. The small parking lot at the top of the trail to the beach was full, but the woman at the Ritz-Carlton gatehouse pointed me to the sites in the garage reserved for coastal access. These things rarely happen without controversy or requirement (see below), but I definitely appreciate both that California has always taken public access seriously and that the resort is willing to cooperate.

Earlier, just a few miles south, I considered (but decided against) parking on Highway 1 and walking down to Martin's Beach, but wasn't sure of its current legal status. Turns out, just a couple of days earlier, the case had been appealed to the Supreme Court (The Guardian). I look forward to visiting Martin's Beach on a future trip.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


These photos are from Pescadero State Beach, just south of the mouth of Pescadero Creek (Gravel Beach: 2013).


Some of the beaches along this coastline are sandy right up to the toe of the bluff and some have nice cobble ramps like this one. To get cobble, you need a source of resistant rock - granite works better than the softer sediments that compose a bulk of these eroding bluffs and that yield only sand or finer stuff. I suppose even the completely sandy beaches may sometimes have cobble underneath, but I suspect the relative proportions of fine and coarse material vary significantly from one beach to the next. Of course, there are probably seasonal differences, too - typically we'd expect sandier in the summer, less sandy (and more exposed cobble) in the winter.

I think the sandpiper-like birds on the beach were indeed sandpipers. They seemed to spend as much time up near the edge of the cobble as they did down at the water's edge.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove, west of Santa Cruz, almost to Davenport, is a narrow bite carved out of the marine terrace - steep cliffs on both sides and a sandy pocket beach trapped in between. The shark fin (or tooth?) is a sea stack, left as the surrounding cliffs were eroded landward by the waves.


There's a neat little cave that frames the east side of the cove and some human artifacts, including a tunnel, at the head of the cove that suggest an interesting human history.

Some more info on Shark Fin Cove.

Santa Cruz

Some shots from a couple of weeks ago - a Friday evening and a chilly Saturday morning in Santa Cruz, before heading up the coast.


The photos are from several different spots on the west end of town. For a couple of posts from the east end, check out: Pleasure Point: July 2013 and Capitola: July 2013.