The California Coastal Commission voted Wednesday to move forward with the San Diego Association of Government’s (SANDAG) proposal to stabilize the Del Mar Bluffs and improve public beach access.
There has been a years-long struggle over the future of the crumbling seaside cliffs and railway tracks marred by erosion.
The bigger picture sooner or later deals with sea level rise, cliff erosion and the laying of the railroad tracks as they slowly approach the cliff edges. For several years, the rail operator, the North County Transit District (NCTD), has wanted to put up a fence around the tracks to deter intruders and prevent accidents.
That wasn’t popular with residents and surfers, who told NBC7 it blocked public access.
“I could get my fence cutters out myself, and if anyone tries to run after me to give me a subpoena, they have to quote me in the water,” said one surfer.
SANDAG was given the green light to move forward with projects that will stabilize the cliffs with seawalls, improve stormwater and drainage infrastructure, and add pedestrian crossings and walkways across the 1.6 miles of cliffs. These are all temporary fixes before the main goal of laying the railroad tracks in the years to come. The NCTD has expressed concern that the SANDAG plan would delay that ultimate goal of moving the railroad inland by 2035.
The public comment section of the meeting, held at a Hilton hotel, consisted of local residents, academics, organizations and various stakeholders such as the NCTD. The agency said the Coastal Commission and SANDAG were going too far.
A Del Mar City representative spoke of the city’s desire to hold the plan, citing the need for more time to review the Coastal Link Study, which would make a better decision. The representative mentioned the need for more data on the impact of construction on local residents. Most of the people who spoke on the podium or practically supported SANDAG’s plan were not in favor of additional dikes, but gave in to the idea that something must be done soon.
In the end, the commission voted to give the SANDAG plan the green light.
“It is crucial to move forward with this project with a sense of urgency given how unstable these cliffs are,” said one commissioner.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023 and last three years.