Residents spoke for and against several options for a plan to protect infrastructure, homes and businesses in the Sharp Park area at a City Council meeting June 9. The project area — Beach Boulevard seawall and promenade — goes from Paloma Drive on the north end to the southern end of the seawall near Clarendon Drive and the Sharp Park levee.

Over the years, swells frequently overtook the seawall north of the Pacifica Pier causing road closures, flooding and property damage, said Ryan Marquez, associate engineer, who is leading to this project. The south seawall also needs work. There is a gap there where there is no protection near Clarendon, he said. The pier also has persistent drainage issues, Marquez said, preventing many fishermen, bikers and walkers from enjoying it.

Past meetings narrowed the options to a hybrid model — considered the highest scorer in an evaluation conducted by GHD Inc., the city’s engineering consultant. After considering many options in a presentation by Marquez and GHD, City Council selected a hybrid model that contains a seawall, rock scour apron and beach nourishment. The vote was unanimous after a lot of questioning.

The hybrid option builds a secant pile seawall to an elevation of 30 feet, which is five feet higher along some sections of the north wall. A 30-foot-wide section of a rock scour apron, half the size of the current revetment, would be placed to mitigate potential scour in front of the seawall, said Aaron Holloway of GHD. The addition of a scaled-down beach nourishment plan, beginning with 500,000 cubic yards of sand, would bring back about 110 feet of beach width along the project, said Holloway. The sand is estimated to last 15 years.

This option assumes two nourishments are paid for from the reduced material needed for the option of the seawall alone, he said.

In addition to providing more beach area, the beach nourishment would provide additional protection from coastal storms, further reducing the overtopping of any seawall. It would also improve coastal access, aesthetics and recreation while offsetting challenges associated with permitting hard structures and reducing possible mitigation fees imposed by the California Coastal Commission, said Holloway. It may also allow for additional funding opportunities.

The next phase of the project will be to design the project and figure out any environmental components to be addressed, Marquez said. The environmental review is expected to be a critical part of the project. An environmental impact report will be produced to show the potential impacts of the project and how they can be reduced. That work will include any impact to adjacent and regional beaches. The project will require approval from the California Coastal Commission and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

More than 40 people spoke at the meeting.

Stephanie Robbins urged council to pick the seawall alone.

“The amount of maintenance on the hybrid is a lot. Will we be able to pay for this ongoing maintenance? We would be better served by a seawall,” she said.

George Domurat asked which is the most resilient, easiest to repair and the best for the rest of the storm season, and asked for more public engagement to address those issues.

Mark Hubbell asked if the team looked at other places besides Pacifica.

“San Francisco has decided to retreat instead of building a seawall,” he said.

Victor Carmichael noted Pacifica has money problems and asked from where funding for this project is going to come. He suggested rebuilding only the north wall, as that one is in the worst shape, to save a lot of money. So did Cliff Lawrence, who wanted Council to move the infrastructure that is problematic inland.

Kimberly Williams, policy manager for the Surfrider Foundation's San Mateo County chapter, thanked the consultants for their work on this project and appreciated their candor in recognizing the negative impacts of a hard armoring approach. She emphasized the need for a longer-term more comprehensive planning process for Pacifica. She encouraged the City Council to collaborate with the Coastal Commission. And she said the City Council has the opportunity to explore alternatives that will ensure that young people and children will have healthy beautiful beaches to enjoy in the future.

In answer to whether utilities should be moved, Lisa Petersen, director of public works, said the Public Works Department is looking at doing that in 10 years in the sewer collection system master plan. She is communicating with the other utilities about getting them in agreement.

Councilmember Tygarjas Bigstyck said he looks forward to learning more in phase two of the project to answer his questions and concerns.

“I think the CCC is visitor serving. That is why we intend to protect this area. We need to start doing this now. I’m in favor of moving the sewer system. Eventually, ocean wins,” he said.

“The hybrid option presents a good opportunity. It will be a model for the coast,” Mayor Sue Beckmeyer said.

Mayor Pro Tem Mary Bier said, “We can talk about moving the sewer system, but first we need some protection. If we can nourish the beaches I think it would be good to do that. I’m in favor of the hybrid model.”

Councilmember Mike O’Neill spoke to urgently getting this design built, remembering Esplanade Avenue when two apartment buildings were red-tagged and demolished by the city.

“I don’t want to be where we have to let two buildings get torn down. I don’t want the city to have to tear down houses before they get swept out to sea. The trailer park lost a street. These are people’s lives. We need to move forward. I would favor the hybrid,” he said.

Councilmember Sue Vaterlaus voted in favor of the design to protect infrastructure and the street.

“We need to do this now. There will be changes,” she said. 

This version updates to clarify Kimberly Williams' comments.

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