Tom Ford would struggle to describe Southern California without mentioning its beaches. More than 17 million people visited Santa Monica’s shores alone in 2014, according to county data, and the recreational opportunities for residents and tourists alike often seem as plentiful as the sand.
But when the executive director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission thinks about ongoing environmental and climate changes, he doesn’t see particularly sunny skies ahead.
Ford and other local environmental experts are concerned that development along the coast prevents the flow of sediment from the mountains to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
“That’s much of of the source of our sand for our beaches,” he said. “But when we’ve built on this environment and altered streams, we don’t get sediment transport down to the coast. The sea level is rising, and we’re expecting more and more stormy weather, so we need more sand at the beach. But we’ve stifled that supply. … It leads you to a dark view of where we’ll be in 30 to 50 years.”
A rising sea level is among the issues expected to be addressed Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., when city officials are hosting a community workshop about the creation of a new Local Coastal Plan. The workshop will be held at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall.
The event is part of an outreach campaign by the City of Santa Monica to inform citizens how the new plan could impact residents, property owners and businesses in the coastal zone, which covers an area from the beach to 4th Street between Adelaide Drive and Pico Boulevard and from the beach to Lincoln Boulevard between Pico and Ocean Park boulevards.
City staff in January presented an update to the Planning Commission on the Local Coastal Plan, which was formulated in 1992 but which yields authority to the California Coastal Commission. More than 50 community members attended the first community workshop Feb. 29.
Wednesday’s workshop will include a panel discussion featuring Garrett Wong, sustainability analyst for the City of Santa Monica; David Revell, chief scientist for Revell Coastal LLC; and Juliette Hart, marine and climate science specialist for the USC Sea Grant.
The state coastal commission will require the new Local Coastal Plan to address “forecasts for sea level rise and storm event impacts along the Santa Monica coastline,” according to a City report. The plan is expected to include sections on “preparing for future changes and protecting critical infrastructure.”
“It is time to adopt new standards and criteria so that coastal development review will reflect and be guided by policies that foster a more sustainable future,” the City report reads.
Guang-yu Wang, senior scientist for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, said local beaches play will an important role as sea levels rise.
“With the consideration of Los Angeles in 2000 and 2100, we are looking at our beaches as a place to hold back rising waters, while supporting wildlife and sequestering carbon,” Wang wrote in a five-year State of the Bay report released last year. “Los Angeles’ iconic beaches are a great resource for us to rehabilitate and protect, and if we’re successful, those beaches will protect us in turn, while allowing us to recreate and surf into the next century.”