Ocean lovers ask supes to delay Great Highway repairs 

As the hungry Pacific Ocean continued to gnaw away at the coastline along the Great Highway, more than 100 people – many of whom have spent untold hours in that very ocean – packed the Park Chalet to discuss what should be done about it – and how quickly.

The Board of Supervisors today will be faced with the decision on whether to declare an emergency that would allow The City to build a wall of giant boulders along the most threatened area of the bluff, forestalling more damage.

But several organizations of surfers and environmentalists are asking the Supervisors to delay the vote for at least a week, so elected officials and the public have more time to analyze whether the move is the best available.

At risk is not only a large chunk of the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard (which has been closed since last week), but a 14-foot tube underneath it that carries raw sewage, explained Public Works project manager Frank Filice. In the last two weeks, he said, 900 feet of the coastline has fallen into the sea, including a piece of the guardrail along the road. City engineers fear that more erosion could jeopardize the sewage tunnel – and, in a worst case scenario, could cause a spill of disastrous magnitude.

The problem with the boulder wall, explained engineer Bob Battalio, a volunteer who has long been involved in planning efforts for San Francisco’s western beaches, is that while it solves the immediate problem, it can later cause more damage to a beach and push erosion elsewhere. Ultimately it is a temporary solution for what will be a permanent problem, he said. The wall also affects surfing conditions on the beach – a major concern for many of the meeting’s attendees, surfers who frequent the area for its waves.

Battalio said very little has been done in recent years to enact a permanent solution, which is a carefully planned retreat from the shoreline – moving the infrastructure away from the bluffs, removing the existing walls of boulders, and restoring the bluffs to a natural state.

Monday night’s community meeting with Supervisors Carmen Chu and Ross Mirkarimi attended the meeting. Chu said felt “horrible” that so  little has been done to prevent this problem, even though it has been anticipated for more than a decade. Mirkarimi said he would consider asking for a postponement of the vote if the city’s experts agreed there was no imminent danger in a delay.

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