Las Tunas State Beach Improvements Approved

Las Tunas State Beach

With blockbuster beaches Surfrider and Zuma nearby drawing the biggest crowds, Las Tunas State Beach in Malibu is usually a haven away from the hustle and bustle down by the shore that happens every summer up and down the coast, and soon the spot will get a bit of a makeover.

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) last week approved a joint California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and City of Malibu project to protect the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway running from Eastern Malibu into Topanga with the addition of riprap and revetments, as well as add additional access points to Las Tunas State Beach.

Riprap, rock used to armor shorelines, and revetment, facing used to sustain an embankment, are used to protect the roadway.

Following earlier approval of the project by the City Council in June 2014, wave action from Hurricane Marie in August of 2014 further damaged the roadway, according to CCC Deputy Director Jack Ainsworth.

“Last summer, as a result of the high wave event from Hurricane Marie, additional erosion occurred along the highway, undermining the highway and this water/gas main,” Ainsworth said.

He added that this was not the first time the roadway has been compromised.

“Las Tunas Beach has a long history of erosion problems, dating back to 1929,” said Ainsworth at the meeting on Wednesday, March 11.

The project is set to take about 120 workdays, or about six months, with no construction on weekends or holidays.

According to CCC Program Analyst Denise Venegas, the project is now scheduled to begin in September of 2015.

Malibu City Council unanimously approved the improvement project in a 4-0 vote. Councilmember Joan House was absent for the vote.

City Planner Stephanie Hawner, who came to speak at the June City Council meeting, outlined that there will also be an ongoing road closure associated with the project.

“There are two traffic control plans for this project,” Hawner said. “Temporary closure of one eastbound traffic lane during construction from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and a plan for shoulder closure at the working area.”

In response, Councilmember Laura Rosenthal expressed concerns about impacts to traffic, but said in the end the project should go on. 

Councilmember Lou La Monte agreed, citing the dangers of erosion in the area.

“The sooner the better, that’s OK by me,” La Monte said.

The project is further complicated because PCH sits on an “active landslide” in the area, which means a seawall is not feasible. However, CCC engineers have found a solution.

“The stacked concrete foundation system will provide support for the roadway and utility lines with some flexibility,” Ainsworth said.

According to Ainsworth, there are many benefits to the project aside from highway stabilization, including increased beach access, better views and better access for Americans with disabilities.

“[This] project also will include views of the beach and the ocean as seen from the highway through removal of existing K-rail,” Ainsworth told Commissioners, “We’ve been trying for many years to remove that K-rail and today’s the day, so that’s something exciting.”

The parking lot improvement will also add one ADA-accessible spot, as well as a ramp and three new staircases down to the beach.

The parking lot will also now feature a short 18-inch rock barrier wall on its seaward side, which is designed to increase safety.

Venegas added that Caltrans has made some concessions to make sure beach access will not be blocked, should the project stretch on into the summer.

“In the summer months, construction will be limited to existing non-sandy portions of the beach,” Venegas said, “Outside of the summer months, some of the sandy areas and beach parking will be temporarily closed for safety.”

Ainsworth also said that though there will be a temporary wave breaker wall installed, long-term adverse effects to the environment will be limited.

“Staff has worked with Caltrans to reduce this work area down to the absolute minimum,” Ainsworth said, adding, “revetment will take about three months. Any adverse effects to the habitat will recover quickly.”

“Removal of rock and concrete rubble will create a much wider, improved beach and improved beach habitat,” Ainsworth said.