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's been a years-long fight over the future of the crumbling seaside bluffs and the railroad tracks which are being compromised because of erosion.
The big picture is addressing sea-level rise, bluff erosion and relocating the railroad tracks, sooner than later, as they inch towards the edges of the bluffs. For several years, the railroad operator, the North County Transit District (NCTD), has wanted to add a fence around the tracks to deter trespassers and prevent accidents.
That has not been popular with residents and surfers who told NBC7 it blocks public access.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
“I might get my fence cutters out myself, and if anybody tries to run after me to give me a citation, they're gonna have to cite me out in the water,” said one surfer.
SANDAG got the greenlight to move forward with projects that will stabilize the bluffs with seawalls, improve storm water and drainage infrastructure, and add pedestrian crossings and trails across the 1.6 miles of bluffs. These are all temporary fixes before the main goal of relocating the railroad tracks in the years to come. The NCTD has expressed concern that the SANDAG plan would delay this ultimate goal of moving the railroad inland by 2035.
The public comment section of the meeting, held at a Hilton hotel, consisted of residents, scientists, organizations and various stakeholders like the NCTD. The agency said the Coastal Commission and SANDAG are overreaching.
A representative with the city of Del Mar spoke about the city’s wish to hold off on the plan, and cited the need for more time to review the coastal connection study that would inform a better decision. The representative mentioned the need for more data surrounding construction impacts on residents. Most people who spoke at the podium or virtually in support of SANDAG’s plan, were not in favor of added sea walls but surrendered to the idea that something has to be done soon.
In the end, the commission voted to greenlight the SANDAG plan.
“It is critically important to move forward with this project with a sense of urgency given how unstable those bluffs are,” said one commissioner.
Construction would begin in 2023 and last three years.