San Francisco Recreation and Parks Caught Illegally Armoring Sharp Park Beach

March 21, 2013



Brent Plater, Wild Equity Institute, (415) 572-6989
Bill McLaughlin, Surfrider Foundation, San Francisco Chapter, (415) 225-4083

San Francisco Recreation and Parks Caught Illegally Armoring Sharp Park Beach

Surfrider Foundation Letter Triggers the California Coastal Commission to Act
on Unpermitted Armoring at Sharp Park in Pacifica

SAN FRANCISCO— In response to notification by The Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter, the California Coastal Commission determined that San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) illegally expanded the seawall in front of the controversial Sharp Park Golf Course in Pacifica, in violation of California’s Coastal Act.

This armoring was unexpected because SFRPD’s Sharp Park Working Group announced in 2011 that “the seawall should not be further armored or heightened,” and because SFRPD’s public notice for the project stated that it would only grade the path on the seawall’s crown.

Unpermitted armoring of Sharp Park Beach by San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department, February 24, 2013.

“Much of the public’s beach in Pacifica is already buried under piles of boulders. Adding new armor to protect a nearby golf course is just not appropriate,” says Bill McLaughlin, who chairs the Erosion Committee of the Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter. “Sea level rise and long term coastal erosion patterns are a looming threat to all our regional coastlines. If beaches like Pacifica’s are to survive, shorelines need to be able to migrate landward.”

“Either SFRPD’s internal environmental review procedures failed, or SFRPD’s description of the project was misleading,” said Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute. “In either case, we expect the Coastal Commission to ensure that the beach is preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

The Coastal Commission has now demanded that the City apply for an after-the-fact permit, which will come before the Coastal Commission at a future public hearing. Surfrider will work to ensure that the illegally dumped rip-rap is removed, and any future construction on the site is limited to grading the path at the top of the berm, and not an incremental armoring project of berm.


In late February, Surfrider learned that the seawall fronting Sharp Park Golf Course would be closed for “renovation” from February 23-25. Surfrider was told by SFRPD that the renovation work would consist of re-grading a path on the crown of the berm. However, observations made at the site showed that additional boulders were placed on the beach. This new armoring was done without proper permitting or environmental review, which precluded the public from weighing in on the project.

The Surfrider Foundation is concerned about the cumulative impacts of coastal armoring on beaches throughout the region. Placing large boulders on a beach covers otherwise usable beach with rock, and the armoring tends to result in the loss of the beach due to erosion. The shoreline of Pacifica has already experienced extensive beach loss due to the effects of armoring.

This is not the first instance of unpermitted armoring by San Francisco. Back in July 2011, Surfrider went before the California Coastal Commission to argue against after-the-fact permitting of a rock wall at Ocean Beach. The powerful state agency unanimously rejected the project, in part because Commissioners believed an alternative to armoring known as managed retreat warranted serious consideration. Managed retreat is the landward relocation of development so that beaches have the space to migrate inland and to respond naturally to coastal processes.

Despite the predominance of coastal armoring in Pacifica, managed retreat has been successfully implemented here before. The San Pedro Creek area at Linda Mar State Beach is the site of such a project, which included restoration of beach, wetlands, and the estuary, as well as the relocation of commercial and residential infrastructure to more sustainable locations. Managed retreat is also part of the restoration vision advocated by Surfrider and others for Sharp Park Beach. The lack of critical infrastructure or development near the ocean make this site an ideal location to implement managed retreat.

For more information on shoreline armoring, please visit the Surfrider Foundation’s Beachapedia page.

For more information about the campaign for a better public park at Sharp Park, please visit

About Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, visit

The Wild Equity Institute is building a healthy and sustainable global community for people
and the plants and animals that accompany us on Earth.



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