Makeover planned for Ocean Beach could mean changes on Great Highway 

A makeover envisioned for Ocean Beach could entail major changes to Great Highway, including narrowing much of the coast-hugging thoroughfare and rerouting its most deteriorated section.

Click on the photo to the right to see a map of the impacted stretch of Great Highway.

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association’s Ocean Beach master plan draft targets lane reductions and suggests rerouting the roadway at Sloat Boulevard, where The City has struggled to keep it from sliding onto the beach.

Other ideas include natural dune restoration, a better connection to Golden Gate Park, improved bicycle and pedestrian access and coastal protection initiatives.

“This is an opportunity to take that long view. We’re thinking less about what we do next year, but what we do in the next 15 to 20 years,” said Ben Grant, the project manager.

SPUR’s proposal comes at a time when community members feel The City has failed to strike a balance between nature preservation and infrastructure maintenance at Ocean Beach.

SPUR is developing the master plan with grants from the California Coastal Conservatory, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the National Park Service. The think tank is heading the effort to coordinate the several state and local agencies involved, but agencies are not required to follow its recommendations.

The City had been piling rocks along the beach’s southern end to slow erosion of the bluffs that hold up Great Highway near Sloat Boulevard. But in July, the California Coastal Commission rejected The City’s permit request to add more rocks.

“What we have here is an engineering mistake, and from that point of view it’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Bill McLaughlin, an erosion committee project manager for Surfrider Foundation’s San Francisco chapter  “But we have to look at it from the larger picture and decide what’s best for The City.”

The Ocean Beach master plan is not a regulatory document, but McLaughlin and other proponents hope city and state agencies will see it as a way to simultaneously support infrastructure and preservation.

Dean LaTourrette, executive director of the coastal preservation group Save the Waves said The City is being forced to “look at alternative solutions” because its rock-piling request was rejected and SPUR is developing its own plan, “which is what we want,” LaTourrette said.

The SPUR proposal suggests reducing much of Great Highway to two lanes and would close the roadway from Sloat Boulevard to Skyline Boulevard, rerouting that portion around the San Francisco Zoo. Reducing the size of the road would give the beach more space to erode naturally, Grant said.

Those have potential as long-term solutions, but more needs to be done to look at how rerouting the road would affect traffic and other nearby institutions, including the zoo, said Michael Carlin, the deputy general manager of the SFPUC who also has been involved in the plan’s development.

“We like some of the ideas they’re coming up with,” Carlin said. “We’re all kind of excited to look at them.”

Grant said he expects a final version of the plan to be ready in spring. But with at least eight state and city agencies that have oversight on the area, he said implementation of any measures could take time.

sgantz@sfexaminer.com

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Sarah Gantz

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Wednesday, Jul 27, 2016

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