Bill Aimed at Preventing Future Cliff Collapses Isn't All About Seawalls

Opinion

Bill Aimed at Preventing Future Bluff Collapses Isn't All About Seawalls

SB 1090 would have helped mitigate coastal erosion and prevent future fatalities on public beaches such as what occurred in Encinitas.

A warning sign is posted near the site of a deadly cliff collapse in Encinitas. / Image via Shutterstock

The article “San Diego Scientist Gets Closer to Understanding Why the Coast Collapses” highlights important information about coastal cliff collapses.

Unfortunately, the article gives the impression that my legislative effort to prevent further collapses is all about building private seawalls. The readers of the Voice of San Diego deserve to know the whole story.

I introduced Senate Bill 1090 in early 2020 to save lives and preserve beach access. The genesis for the bill was the tragic August 2019 bluff collapse in Encinitas that took the lives of three people.

I authored SB 1090 with the input and support of the SoCal Bluff Alliance and Dr. Pat Davis, who lost his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law in the Encinitas bluff collapse.

SB 1090 would have helped mitigate coastal erosion and prevent future fatalities on public beaches such as what occurred in Encinitas.

A seawall is indeed one option provided in SB 1090, but the bill would have allowed for a broad away of erosion mitigation strategies like “toes” that are only six inches long. Those six inches will bring back yards of safe beach access.

Other erosion mitigation strategies allowed in the bill include drainage systems, erosion resistant landscaping and notch infills. The article did not mention these other strategies.

SB 1090 would have also required the California Coastal Commission to approve a public agency’s or homeowner’s application for erosion mitigation efforts IF they meet certain streamlined requirements for coastal mitigation.

The commission can still deny an application for a seawall or other shoreline protective device if they judge it to be a substantial threat to public safety or health. The commission would need to provide a reason and documentation for the denial.

What also needs to be said is that the Coastal Commission’s preference for “managed retreat” would let erosion continue unchecked. More people could die from bluff collapses if nothing is done.

While I did not pursue SB 1090 in the 2020 legislative session due to the state’s focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, I plan to introduce a new bill in the 2021 session.

I look forward to continuing to work with community members on this important public safety and environmental issue.

Patricia Bates is a state senator serving California’s 36th District.

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