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Thu May 21, 2020, 09:09 AM

As California beaches reopen, seawall construction becomes legislative battleground

L.A. Times May 20, 2020

<> In a move this month that outraged environmentalists and caught coastal regulators off guard, a Republican senator pushed forward legislation that would revise a key section in the state’s landmark Coastal Act and allow homeowners in San Diego and Orange counties to build seawalls by right. These changes would set a precedent of sidestepping the required (and often tough) oversight of the California Coastal Commission, which for decades has walked the contentious line between protecting private property and preserving the very beaches that make California, well, California.

Seawalls, while effective in protecting beachfront homes and infrastructure in the short term, are controversial because they disrupt the erosion and natural replenishment of sand — stripping away beaches until they narrow or vanish altogether. For every new seawall protecting a home or road, a beach for the people is sacrificed. <>

Opponents call the bill a thinly veiled attempt by the author, Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), to allow wealthy coastal enclaves to finally get away with armoring their own properties without considering the broader consequences. If public safety was truly the concern, there would be a number of other options on the table — such as moving the structures themselves out of harm’s way, they said. Only an unimaginably massive seawall, one that no homeowner would ever propose, could prevent a total cliff collapse like the one in Encinitas.

“It’s an outrageous and reckless proposal that would destroy Orange County’s public beaches for private benefit,” said Denise Erkeneff, who has lived in Dana Point for 25 years and coordinates the Surfrider Foundation’s South Orange County chapter. “Efforts to protect public access to the coast will be for nothing if there is no coast or beaches left to visit.” <>

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