Up Against a Seawall, Surfrider Wins Big

by Chris Dixon

Encinitas Going Under.

On March 25, a superior court judge in San Diego handed the Surfrider Foundation a stunner of a victory. The Judge, Lisa Guy-Schall, basically overturned the city of Solana Beach’s approval of a shoreline armoring, or seawall, project. The judge’s ruling could have significant effects all along the California coast, particularly in places like San Diego, Santa Cruz, Ventura and Pacifica.

The judge’s decision set aside Solana Beach’s “mitigated negative declaration” on the shoreline armoring project. A mitigated negative declaration basically means that if an engineering project is going to have an impact then the project’s builder must do something to “mitigate” or compensate for the impact or damage. For example, if a developer is going to fill in a wetland, he mitigates this damage, by creating a wetland somewhere else. (A process that often results in a dismal failure).

Fletcher Cove Gouged Out. Once This Was Wide, Sandy Beach.

Essentially, Solana Beach said that if it was given permission to further armor the shore, it would “mitigate” future beach loss by a project that would take $20,000 from beachfront homeowners to go to a statewide fund for sand replenishment. In a perfect world, this sand would build up the beach and keep shoreside cliffs from eroding further. Unfortunately for Solana Beach, the judge agreed with Surfrider’s argument that the city’s plan provided nowhere near enough sand to cover the town’s beaches.

The plan that Surfrider fought was Solana Beach’s request to fill in eroded notches at the base of the town’s beach bluffs with concrete. Surfrider argued that this process actually speeds the loss of sand from the beaches and results in increased erosion elsewhere. The refusal of the city’s plan represents one of the first times that this process, called “Passive Erosion” has been recognized by a court.