Local News

March 7, 2002

Bluff projects go Coastal


SANTA CRUZ “” Two property owners trying to keep their land from slipping into the sea must pass muster today with the state Coastal Commission.

And it might be a tough go.

Both projects “” one near 41st Avenue and the other along Opal Cliff Drive “” earned county OKs in the fall, but Coastal Commissioners Dave Potter and Sara Wan appealed the approvals, and commission staff is recommending denial.

One landowner proposes a drilled pier and sprayed concrete wall on the bluffs near 500 41st Ave., adjacent to the surf break known as The Hook.

The other project would involve about 150 feet of concrete protection on the bluffs at 4420 and 4440 Opal Cliff Drive.

In both cases, commission staff contends erosion does not yet pose a significant enough threat to build the structures.

County regulations say there must be a “significant threat” to structures before seawalls are built. There is no precise definition for what that threat is, said Dan Carl of the Coastal Commission’s Santa Cruz office.

He said the commission has consistently considered an immediate threat to be one that could happen within two to three years.

Staff also contends both projects could need additional armoring and would fail to meet a 100-year stability requirement.

But the landowners say waiting until erosion is about to happen makes no sense. Delaying the project could mean having to build seawalls closer to the shoreline later, said Keith Adams, who owns the property at 500 41st Ave.

“Bluff-top protection is supposed to be an alternative to shoreline protection,” he said.

Consultants for the property owners say the threat to the houses is greater than the commission staff contends and that erosion could undermine the foundations of their homes after just a few intense storms.

That could pose safety hazards to the property owners and beach users below, they argued.

The property owners also content the structures don’t constitute shoreline protection because they will be built on the bluffs.

Contact Brian Seals at