- Business Advocacy
The Shifting Sands of Beach Real Estate
Gary Frueholz, Dilbeck Real Estate
Some of Southern California’s most expensive real estate is located at the beach. And some of this expensive real estate is disappearing.
Beaches at Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and San Clemente are noticeably suffering from sand erosion. And the pace of this erosion has been increasing over the last decade.
One of my favorite beaches is San Clemente State Beach. The beach is adjacent to imposing cliffs and has the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad track running along at the base of the cliffs. Up to a few years ago a pleasant walk was follow the beach south for about a mile to Cottons Point. This was where President Nixon’s home used to be. But that walk is no longer available. Sand erosion forces a beach walker to either wade through knee deep water or climb up the railroad tracks as they approach Cottons Point.
California is losing some of its most precious real estate. You can see the beach discernably shrinking each year at many beaches. But more is going on beside the common explanation of global warming leading to elevated sea levels and serious storm activity washing away the beach sand.
Beyond global warming, there are other significant causes for beach erosion. And by confronting these additional causes, sand erosion at the beaches can be impacted in a positive manner.
First, one needs to realize that many of the Southern California beaches were not naturally as board and large as we fondly remember them in our lifetimes. Brett Sanders, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Irvine was interviewed by The Mercury Newsand said that in the 1920’s, beaches along the Southern California coast were naturally narrow. “Some of the leaders realized the beaches were too small to meet the demand for tourism,” he said.
Between the 1920’s and 1960’s a coalition composed of government officials, engineers, and private sector tourism investors formed the beach lobby which transformed Southern California beaches into their more recent configuration. Some beaches were increased to three times their original size through depositing additional sand on the beaches.
During the 1920’s sand was added to beaches to increase their size to encourage tourism. Another motive for increasing beach size was to create greater accessibility for the general public to beaches.
By the 1930’s the Army Corp of Engineers became involved with adding sand to beaches as a response to rivers such as the Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River, and Santa Ana River being cemented over and having flood control barriers built which prevented the natural transportation of sediment and sand down the rivers to replenish beach sand.
From the 1930’s through the 1980’s, an average of 1.3 million cubic yardsper year of sand was deposited by various programs on Southern California beaches to preserve their width.
Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1962 to address the negative impacts of the flood control structures on natural sand deposits. An example of a project resulting from this act was the Surfside-Sunset Beach Nourishment Project which deposited 1.5 million cubic yards of sandon local beaches approximately every three to four years.
But all of this has been dramatically reduced due to recent federal budget cutbacks. Often, two-thirds the cost for replenishing sand has been covered by federal money and the remainder by local municipalities. But over the last decade the federal grants have been drying up. The most recent stage of the Surfside-Sunset Beach Nourishment Project has been indefinitely suspended due to lack of federal funds.
The current trend of beach erosion needs to be confronted. And much of the local beach erosion resulting from flood control structures and the cementing over of rivers that flow to the ocean can be reversed if programs which have been recently curtailed are reinstated.
Gary Frueholz is a realtor with Dilbeck Real Estate, a past member of the Alhambra Planning Commission, a Certified Senior Real Estate Specialist, Certified International Property Specialist, and can be reached at 626-318-9436. See his stories at www.garysstories.com.