Coastal Commission OKs Broad Beach Sand Replacement

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This 2015 map shows the location where the sand replenishment project is set to take place.

For the low price of $31 million, Broad Beach homeowners will once again have the simple luxury of a backyard beach, following approval by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) at its Oct. 9 meeting in Long Beach.

The commission voted narrowly 7-5 to approve a beach nourishment project at Broad Beach, where wave action and other factors led to a swift erosion of the beach for years, notably in 2008 and again in 2010. The project is set to include the replacement of 600,000 cubic yards of sand from an inland quarry, as well as protection for tidepools and dunes, movement of a rock revetment, and a commitment to the removal of individual septic tanks below the houses along the beach. The beach will also eventually be opened back up for public access.

“Overall, the homeowners are very pleased, and very encouraged by the Coastal Commission’s approvals on the project,” Ken Ehrlich, legal counsel for the Broad Beach Geological Hazardous Abatement District (GHAD), said in an interview with The Malibu Times. “It took an incredible amount of patience to invest this much time and money so far. The Commissioners’ decisions show they have confidence in the GHAD plan and a willingness to make it work, and it’s much appreciated.”

Property owners in the GHAD number 121, with over 90 percent voting on an assessment district for the $31 million sand replenishment project.

“We know of no place else on the planet where private individuals have committed $31 million to nourish and keep nourished a beach for public use,” GHAD project chair Mark Gross, a Broad Beach resident, said.

The issue of public use is one that was heavily debated during the four-hour discussion at Friday’s meeting, with property owners and commissioners sparring over how much of the beachfront should be dedicated for public access.

“Let’s face it, the Broad Beach homeowners don’t have the best record on public access,” Susan Jordan, founder of the California Coastal Protection Network, said. “I understand because they think of it as their backyard, but it’s actually a public beach.”

Plans proposed by CCC staff included relocation of about 1,800 linear feet of a rock revetment built in 2010 closer landward, a plan that worried some homeowners.

Vice Chair of the Coastal Commission Dayna Bochco defended the desire of Broad Beach residents to have some protection from the public encroaching on their property.

“I think the further back we push the revetment, and then we ask for the later easement behind the revetment, we just come further and further and further closer to these people’s homes,” Bochco said.

Commissioners eventually voted on a compromise that would pave the way for public access down the line. In the past, landowners came under fire for hiring private security guards to keep outsiders off the public beach.

“It takes very strong leadership and understanding of the project for the Commissioners to sometimes not listen to staff recommendations and strike a compromise on certain issues,” Ehrlich described. “For example, they were willing to make compromises on the relocation of the rock revetment, which has been an issue with them since 2010. And, although the Commission staff wanted an immediate dedication of public access to the beach, the Commissioners were willing to take public safety into account and wait three to five years.”

The project, which was originally designed to span 20 years of monitoring and continued sand replacement, was trimmed to last a decade, a compromise Ehrlich said homeowners were willing to make.

 “I wouldn’t call it a disappointment, but we asked for a 20-year plan, and what they approved was a 10-year plan that would require an amendment at the end of 10 years in order to get to 20 years. We were hoping not to have to go through this process again in 10 years, but we understand their reasoning,” Ehrlich said.