Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Coastal Commission approves Surfers' Point Phase 2

At their April, 2021 meeting, the California Coastal Commission approved (with conditions) modifications to the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat project in Ventura, CA.   Application No. 4-05-148-A1 (City of Ventura and 31st Agricultural District, Ventura) aims to modify portions of the Managed Retreat project to support the recently completed plans for Phase 2 of the project.

The project was originally approved in 2006, but due to limited funding only about half of it was constructed in 2010-11. These amendments to the original permit No. 4-05-148  reflect a revised layout of the parking lots which will increase the total available spaces for day use, overflow, and temporary surf check parking. (See the prior analysis of parking on this blog here)

"The proposed reconfiguration would result in the addition of approximately 151 total parking spaces, approximately 64 of which would be located in the high frequency parking lot, and approximately 87 in the reduced frequency parking lot. [...] The proposed project reconfiguration would also add approximately three (3) twenty minute parking spaces that allow for drop-off or for the public to check water or surf conditions (these spots are called “surf check” parking spaces), for a total number of approximately 27 “surf check” parking spaces. Shoreline Drive is proposed to be relocated to improve circulation, with its terminus at the parking lot to be further east. The previously approved gatehouse/ticket booth located at the entrance of the parking lot would be relocated approximately 160 feet to the east, and a vehicle turn around would be added. 

"The surface material of the parking lot is also proposed to be changed from a permeable surface to asphalt. This change in surface material would also apply to the portion of the parking lot that was constructed in Phase 1 along with the new portions of parking lot to be constructed in Phase 2. [...] It was determined that the original turf grass parking lot is not feasible in current drought conditions and other permeable surfaces are infeasible as water is unable to adequately infiltrate due to the high ground water table.


Modifications to Parking Layout
Surfers Point phase 2

A separate permit (A-4-SBV-06-037) covers the "tidelands" portion of the project.   Phase 2 includes modifications to the originally approved managed retreat project to extend the cobble berm and vegetated sand dunes to merge with the promenade and recently constructed emergency revetment.  The changes would extend the cobble berm and vegetated sand dunes approximately 150 ft east (14,800 cu.yds. of cobble and 17,825 cu.yds. of sand), reconfigure public access amenities, and revise landscaping plan, at Surfer’s Point, City of Ventura, Ventura County. 

Modifications to Cobble Berm and Dunes
Surfers Point phase 2

The permit will require electric vehicle charging stations to be installed in the new parking lots:

The special condition to require electric vehicle charging stations is consistent with Coastal Act Section 30253 because it will reduce energy use and provide an opportunity for users of electric vehicles to access the coast. 

During discussion of the project, Coastal Commissioners Shelley Luce, Matt O'Malley, Mike Wilson, Mark Gold and Donne Brownsey raised concerns about the change of surface material of the parking lot, citing concerns over potential water quality impacts from runoff and uncertainty around mitigation of those impacts. Based on these concerns, Coastal Commission staff added a required Storm Water Management Plan (SWMP) and water quality monitoring condition into the permit amendment. The permit was approved unanimously.


The Coastal Commission staff report includes an interesting summary of the history of the project dating back to the first bike path, located approximately two to 20 feet seaward of its current location, that had been partially destroyed by storms in the winter of 1982/3.  (Hints of this original bike path are visible along the eroding bluff today)

In 1984, the Commission certified the City of San Buenaventura’s Local Coastal Program (LCP) which created a 250-foot wide oceanfront corridor for recreational use, extending west from Surfer’s Point Park to the Ventura River.  The LCP was amended in 1986 such that "temporary bicycle and hiking trails...and temporary parking which do not require construction of a shoreline protective device, may be permitted within the setback area established by the geotechnical study.” 

In 1988 and 1989, the Commission approved two permits for improvements within the Commission’s original jurisdiction, CDP Nos. 4-88-123 and 4-88-130, that were associated with construction of Shoreline Drive, the 352-space parking lot, and other development in the oceanfront corridor at Surfer’s Point.

The oceanfront corridor improvements were constructed in 1989. In the summer of 1991, shoreline erosion began undermining portions of the bicycle path. 

In November 1991, Commission staff received a request from the City of Ventura/31st Agricultural District for an emergency permit to place five to six ton rocks along an approximately 260 foot length of the backshore in order to protect the bicycle path from erosion (CDP No. 4-91-060-G). The emergency request was denied in favor of relocating the undermined section of the bicycle path slightly inland. In explaining the Executive Director’s denial of CDP No. 4- 91-060-G, Commission staff noted that the improvements in the oceanfront corridor had been constructed on the understanding that they were temporary in nature and therefore could not be protected with shoreline protective devices. 

On December 11, 1992, following continued undermining of the bicycle path and parking lot, the City of Ventura issued itself an emergency coastal development permit for construction of a rip-rap revetment, and the revetment was constructed the following week, from December 14 – 16, 1992. Commission enforcement staff issued a stop work order on December 15, 1992, and further pursued removal of the revetment through enforcement and legal measures.

This emergency revetment remained in place until 2010 when it was removed along with the collapsing parking lot during construction of Phase 1 of the Managed Retreat project.


Although the Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project has been widely recognized as an innovative and effective approach to coastal management, it is just as much an example of failed coastal management.  Conflicting mandates and the inability to coordinate amongst the multitude of federal, state, and local government agencies has directly impacted this important public trust resource.  It is hard to quantify the benefits lost to decades of crumbling infrastructure and mismanagement at what should be the "crown jewel" of the City of Ventura.  This mismanagement stems from a lack of understanding and respect for the underlying dynamic landform of the Ventura River delta, combined with the bureaucratic failings of fragmented governance.   The fact that this issue has already lingered for four decades is stark foreshadowing to the future impact of sea level rise on the California coast.  In the meantime, we can only watch as the ocean slowly erases the mistakes of the past...


Coastal Commission Staff Report: Application No. 4-05-148-A1 (City of Ventura and 31st Agricultural District, Ventura)

On this Blog

Surfers Point (all posts)

Surfers’ Point Managed Retreat Phase 2 update, Oct 2020 - final plans and costs

Surfers' Point Phase 2 update, Dec 2019 - parking analysis

The Managed Retreat Process at Surfers Point, Nov 2010 - Phase 1 construction

Surfers' Point erosion damage Jan 2021 - current conditions

Natural Shoreline Case Study

Surfers' Point case study

Climate.gov (another case study)

US Climate Resilience Toolkit