Experts at odds on how to stave off Sunset Cliffs erosion
by Dave Schwab
Jul 26, 2013 | 1326 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Expert opinions continue to be divided in terms of how best to halt erosion at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.                                           Photo by Jim Grant I The Beacon
Expert opinions continue to be divided in terms of how best to halt erosion at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Photo by Jim Grant I The Beacon
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Environmental experts clashed over a proposed drainage system designed to reduce bluff erosion at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park at Peninsula Community Planning Board’s (PCPB’s) July 18 meeting.

City engineer Ali Darvishi and environmental consultants Craig Barilotti and Cammie Ingram offered differing views on methods to improve drainage to resolve Sunset Cliffs’ longstanding erosion problem. The opinions were expressed during a presentation on the Sunset Cliffs Hillside Park Project.

The city is proposing a more traditional approach that would use piping along the cliffs with a series of drains installed at the base of the bluffs to intercept stormwater runoff.

Barilotti and Ingram, on the other hand, argued that the city’s plan is costly and unnecessary. They insist more natural methods — like dirt berms and vegetative swale to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water — should be used instead to stem cliff erosion.

The hillside project calls for developing two 6-foot-wide trails on the hillside section of the park, which is the 50-acre portion south of Ladera Street. A third trail available for disabled users would begin at one of the hillside’s parking lots.

The trails are intended to enhance opportunities to view the ocean with five observation points, interpretive signs and several benches. Native plants and a temporary irrigation system will be installed on 10 feet of both sides of the trails. Shortcuts and secondary trails will be cut off and restored with native plants.

A former ballpark used by Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) would be recontoured and planted to create a more natural state, said officials.

Dedicated in 1983, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park encompasses 68 acres of bluffs and walking paths that extend from PLNU on the south to Adair Street on the north. About 18 acres run parallel to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, while the remainder is made up of cliffs that descend to the ocean.

During the meeting, Lyle Beller of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council and Darvishi of the city Public Works Department spoke on the hillside park project’s status.

Noting the restoration project is 100 percent designed, Darvishi said the intent is to improve existing trails while removing some that are not needed, as well as to revegetate the park by replacing non-native species with native ones.

“The first phase of the project is to remove exotic species and recontour the ball field to resemble or mimic what used to be there,” Darvishi said.

Beller agreed.

“What we’re trying to do is improve the walkability of the coastal trail, expand the natural habitat and enhance the natural coastal experience for visitors to our park,” said Beller.

If all goes well, Darvishi said city officials hope to have the necessary environmental permitting in place by the end of this year. He said project construction could then begin perhaps as soon as four to six months later.
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