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Oceanside Debates the Future of its Coastline

“Whether the width of the beach is shrinking due to climate change and rising sea levels, coastal development or both, the fact of the matter is: Oceanside, like many of Southern California coastal communities, is struggling to protect its beachfront properties.” Now, as MacKenzie Elmer reports in Voice of San Diego, a tense debate between city officials and the California Coastal Commission “is adding fuel to a larger debate over what Oceanside should do about its shrinking coastline.”

Unlike other California cities, “allows property owners to do certain types of repair work to their boulder walls – called revetments – without having to get a coastal development permit,” but “[t]he city restricts how much, what type and where material can be placed, and Oceanside’s engineering staff reviews the plans to make sure they follow wall-design standards.” However, a lack of proactive enforcement means that work frequently happens without city approval, including illegal practices like pouring concrete between the boulders.

“But there’s a bigger issue at stake than permitting maintenance work. The city of Oceanside is updating what’s known as a Local Coastal Program, which spells out the types of development and projects that need Coastal Commission permission. The Coastal Commission also needs to sign off on any city’s Local Coastal Program. Oceanside is also working through its own assessment of how climate change is going to shrink the beach and endanger coastal homes down the line, a process that involves studying how to add and keep sand on the beach.” Although not yet on the table in Oceanside, some coastal communities are evaluating plans for “managed retreat” as rising waters and erosion threaten coastal development.

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