Letter to editor: Concerns about the ‘disappearing’ Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Published - 03/30/18 - 05:59 PM | 1735 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

For starters, understanding the fundamental issues involved with recommendations from the park’s comprehensive master plan and how to accomplish them is detailed and controversial. Despite the continuing deterioration of the park, and the largely uncontrolled stormwater runoff into the ocean, it took 22 years to have a master plan approved.

Erosion control is the first priority of the plan. Repeatedly, one sees calls for an environmentally responsible comprehensive drainage study and drainage plans for the park. In 2007, the first drainage study was prepared but it did not include all areas of the park and run-on from uphill properties. And equally important, it employed no environmentally sensitive techniques to keep the incident rain where it falls, rather than flowing down slope, just 18-inch to 36-inch large storm drain pipes to get the water and pollutants to the ocean. 

Without a comprehensive understanding of all of the water crossing the park, it simply is not possible to effectively control the erosion that is devastating the park. I have inquired twice at presentations to the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council by City consulting engineers whether there is a comprehensive drainage study used for preparing the current construction plans. I was told, both times, yes. However, I have not seen the drainage study and don’t know anyone else who has. I have submitted an official request for records from the City to see the comprehensive drainage study.

A significant part of our problem is that the hillside improvements are being done before completion of the comprehensive drainage study/plan due to pressure to utilize funding in place for this portion of the improvements. Without understanding the impact of rushing storm water we likely will see the new trails washed out like we saw in 2015.  

When you look at the work now underway at the park, you will see large areas of the park bulldozed bare. We are told that all this destruction is for restoration of native habitat and trails, that were designed in the absence of the comprehensive drainage study. 

This is a technique that no one who does restoration of native lands has ever employed, nor would they recommend. We have been lucky that the last several storms were mild with gentle rain, otherwise there would have been massive erosion and pollution of the near shore ocean.

I am one of four people involved with the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council who have repeatedly raised serious concerns about whether the plans and work underway at the park will actually result in consequential reduction of erosion and continuing discharge of pollutants to the ocean. My observations come from over 30 years of extensive community development work with large projects in many locations where stormwater management was always a critical matter.

I became involved with this project because the condition of the park is devastating and I know that effective site work for diversion, retention and detention of stormwater can dramatically change the continuing loss of this potentially magnificent public space. 

It is likely that the native plant restoration work will be beneficial for the park in the long run, in terms of some stormwater uptake that will have a minor effect on erosion, and will add to the more natural appearance of the park. However, it is not clear, at all, that the cumulative results from plans now in place for the entire park will significantly mitigate erosion or contribute to another major goal of restoration.

We really can do better.

Dan Dennison
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Concerned Citizen
April 02, 2018
Agreed! Seems like the City is putting the cart before the horse. They've already done massive grading with no apparent thought to temporary or permanent erosion control. Thankfully we are now entering the dry season, so there's time for the City to get their act together. But if they haven't started revegetation and stormwater mitigation well before next winter, then we will see substantial erosion directly into the surf zone.
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