San Clemente and Santa Cruz share coastal resiliency efforts

May 29, 2024

By Zack Cefalu, legislative affairs analyst

San Clemente and Santa Cruz city officials shared valuable insights about their city’s coastal resiliency projects during Cal Cities’ quarterly meeting for coastal cities earlier this month.  

San Clemente officials shared how a loss of natural sand replenishment and stronger storm surges have affected a major rail corridor that runs through the city. The railway sits between the ocean and seaside bluffs. Since the early 2000s, beaches along the rail corridor have rapidly eroded due to a lack of sand replenishment brought on by sea level rise. 

The city installed a stone revetment, a sloping structure designed to protect against erosion, along the railway. Yet, rising sea levels continued to speed up beach erosion and began eroding the bluffs. This has led to structural damage to the revetment and large-scale landslides. Both pose major public safety concerns and often hinder railway operations. 

City officials worked with federal, state, and county stakeholders to manually add sand onto eroding beaches. This process, known as sand nourishment, protects both infrastructure and the coastal environment while restoring public access to these beaches.

In Santa Cruz, severe flooding during storm surges and sea level rise are also compounding beach erosion. By 2060, sea level rise may reduce the city’s Cowell and Main beaches by half. High tides will likely flood most of these beaches by 2100. These areas are home to several neighborhoods that are disproportionately susceptible to increasing coastal hazards, which threaten to erase these areas of the city.

The city divided its response into three stages that focus on short-term, near-term, and long-term impacts. Santa Cruz has repaired damage to its existing revetment, is building a sea wall, and will begin to move inland over the long term when possible. This tiered approach based on the immediacy of the effects allows the city to create a comprehensive and far-reaching response.

More information about those efforts is available online

How to get your city involved

Cal Cities is hosting its next Coastal Cities Working Group Quarterly Forum in mid-August. During this meeting, Cal Cities will provide the group with an update on priority coastal bills. The meeting will include another round of coastal resiliency presentations, as well as an open discussion on pressing coastal issues.

To hear more insights from your peers, join the Cal Cities Coastal Listserv. If you have any questions, please contact Cal Cities Environmental Quality Lobbyist Melissa Sparks-Kranz.