OB Cliff Condo Residents Want Seawall to Halt Erosion

by on November 16, 2010 · 26 comments

in Culture, Environment, Ocean Beach, Popular

Sunset cliffs air view goggleEditor: Channel 10News ran a story about some Ocean Beach residents who live in condos on the cliffs now want a seawall to be built to halt the spread of erosion, and that they are appealing to the City Council for financial assistance. These residents reside in a building that was developed right on the fabled, beautiful cliffs in southern OB – cliffs that many in the community want to preserve in their natural state. Environmentalists in the Seventies tried to prevent these condos from even being built because of the dangerous proximity to the cliff edge. Activists tried to warn condo purchasers then that the erosion of the cliffs is stead and unrepentant.  Recent storms have brought the reality of a steady erosion to the attention of these current residents.

OB Beachfront Homes Threatened By Erosion – Residents Say They Want A New Seawall Built

by 10News.com / November 15, 2010

SAN DIEGO — Ocean Beach residents who are worried their beachfront homes will slide into the ocean took their concerns to San Diego City Council.

“It just keeps digging more and more underneath,” said Edward Teitel, who’s lived at the Oceanus Condos for 10 years, fears one day, his complex will crash into the ocean below. “Unless there’s a wall, these units are gone.”

The situation worsened after the seawall that should have lasted 30 years took a beating from last winter’s storms.  All 13 residents want to do something before it is too late, so they went before City Council and requested they be allowed to start what is called a Geologic Hazard Abatement District, or GHAD.  GHAD is supposed to streamline the process to raise the estimated $800,000 to build a new and stronger seawall.

For the remainder of this article, please go here.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar annagrace November 16, 2010 at 11:08 am

I have a lot of questions about this one, but the Editor’s note, while moot at this point, is worth thinking about- ie that in the 1970’s a significant number of residents wanted to preserve the cliffs in their natural state and that builders/condo owners were warned that erosion was an inescapable fact.

We can’t put the genie back in the bottle, so on to the questions… Who built and is responsible for the current battered seawall that would supposedly last 30 years? Are the condo owners solely responsible for the $800,000 tab if the GHAD is approved as opposed being publicly funded? Will the new and stronger seawall be built in the same place as the existing one?


avatar Brian November 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Let ’em fall.


avatar dave rice November 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I assume we’re talking about the complex at Bacon & Santa Cruz, top center of the picture? I’d heard another rumor that complex owners farther down, near Cable & Orchard, were grumbling too…

I think the main point of discussion here is: are we talking about building a wall where none exists or repairing one already present? I think most would be in agreement that we shouldn’t be building anything new to alter the landscape of the cliffs (besides, I need a handful of houses and condos to slide off so I can live oceanfront). But on the topic of reinforcing the existing wall, I defer to Anna and her observation that the genie’s not going back into the bottle…though that doesn’t mean anyone else should necessarily be responsible for the cost of protecting these homeowners, nor should they be allowed to make any improvements without the city and any other appropriate authorities signing off. Let them implement a special assessment tacked on to HOA dues if the complex doesn’t have enough in reserves to pay for their own repairs…


avatar Frank Gormlie November 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Needs further investigation as the Ch 10 article did not specify,unless you can read between the lines.


avatar Jon November 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm

If you look at the link Dorothy Lee provided below, it lists the units in question as actually between Pescadero Dr. and Bermuda. Not where I expected.


avatar dave rice November 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

4848 Bermuda, specifically – I sent Frank a pic of the units in question, not sure if I can post photos in my response, or how to do it if I could…


avatar Jon November 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Oh geez! Sharia law has finally set foot in OB! Now homeowners are allowed to declare Ghad against the ocean!? What’s next?


avatar Frank Gormlie November 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I swear Jon, another one-liner gets me on the floor. I do think there are openings in OB Comedy Night at Winston’s, dude. I’d be first in line if you were on….


avatar Jon November 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Only if they let me type my jokes anonymously from behind the (open) bar.


avatar annagrace November 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Jon- what a mind! I can see the t-shirts now….:) Don’t stop!


avatar Dorothy Lee November 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm

The city’s documents and all of the data for the GHAD (love the name!) are found on the council docket for Nov 15 2010, Item-200.
As stated in the Exec Summary,
“once formed, a GHAD is a political subdivision of the state and is
responsible for performing certain governmental and operational functions on its own behalf. The GHAD would be required to secure any applicable permits or other regulatory approvals associated with the improvements contemplated by the Plan of Control. The property owners within the proposed GHAD have indicated that, as provided for under the Code, they will pursue their own financing for the required improvements once the GHAD is formed. The Code provides that a GHAD is authorized to independently finance improvements through the Improvement Act of 1911, the Municipal Improvement Act of 1913, and the Improvement Bond Act of 1915. A GHAD may also elect to finance the improvements on a pay
as you go basis through property tax bills. At this time, the method of financing has not been determined by the property owners.”


avatar annagrace November 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Thanks Dorothy for the link! Initially it appeared that the GHAD members would assume all of the associated costs. Incorrect assumption- the City’s administrative costs won’t necessarily be reimbursed. If that is the case (not resolved yet) those costs will come out of our cash strapped General Fund- the fund that pays for fire & police protection, libraries and parks. Here’s the pertinent passage:
City staff has requested that the Proponents enter into a reimbursement agreement with the City whereby costs associated with processing the Petition and the proposed GHAD formation proceedings would be reimbursed to the City General Fund. As of November 2, 2010, the Proponents have declined to enter into the agreement and have indicated they do not believe such an arrangement is warranted or provided for in City policies. City staff, including the City Attorney’s office, will continue to communicate with the Proponents on this issue in an attempt to reach agreement regarding the reimbursement of City Costs.”

I’d like to know what those City costs will be.


avatar Brian November 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm
avatar Dorothy Lee November 16, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I believe that the city estimates $15,000 would cover the permitting, inspection, and administrative costs.


avatar joe tucker November 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I have photos from ’82 which show the pocket beach as it was before the sea wall was built (nice sand), the sign which said it would be restored, & of the way it looks now (no sand). Now they want more??? NO!!! It looks ugly enough already; to add more would be a continuing waste of $$$$.


avatar dave rice November 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Would like to see those photos, Joe…it’d be cool if you were willing to share them and the Rag could contrast with how the beach looks now. Maybe if the community gets involved in the project early enough beach restoration could be added as a condition of wall repair…of course, I don’t know how tides and the shape of the cliffs will affect how rooted in reality the desire to have a beach coexist with the wall is, not to mention what role those non-native boulders play.


avatar Frank Gormlie November 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Joe and Dave – We received Joe’s photos and we hope to post them in a follow-up article.


avatar ss November 16, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I this is the Bermuda property on the North side. A temporary wall was constructed out of rip rap and concrete I believe in 99 or 00. I know the CCC would like that removed it was to be temporary. I haven’t looked at it recently but it should still be up and working well but if there are voids behind the rip rap the water will continue to erode and you won’t be able to see the erosion. If a nice wall is constructed you can’t even tell it is a wall. There are several along the cliffs now that are not noticeable until you are right next to them and your still questioning it.
If they can remove the rip rap and built and unnoticeable wall that does not ding the tax payer go for it, but it doesn’t come cheap. If there are 13 units to chip in I would guess 100K apiece should come close to covering design, permitting, removal of the old and a new wall. But the major stumbling block is the permitting.


avatar Sarah November 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm

look up the addresses on Google maps and you’ll know the exact properties. I recognized them immediately.


avatar OB Dude November 16, 2010 at 7:53 pm

The property owners are miffed that the city wants to charge them $15,000 in processing fees on top of what they would need to pay to privately finance the seawall project. That is $1,154 each unit. If you can’t afford that then you will never be able to swing the study, permits and construction. My advise, enjoy it for the next year cause you might be moving soon.

Just curious…How many units are owner occupied? Are any of these being used as “vacation rentals” generating income for the owners? Did banks actually provide a mortgage on a condo that might slip into the ocean within one good rainy season?


avatar OB Dude November 16, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Sorry for my posting with misspellings….advice not advise :-)


avatar Dorothy Lee November 17, 2010 at 9:47 am

OB Dude, To judge whether a condo is owner occupied, check for the homeowner’s exemption: one should legally take the exemption only if the property is the primary residence. (Of course, there are those who cheat.)
You can check the exemption status for each parcel at

Enter into the “search or pay online” query box the parcel number that each GHAD petitioner provided (in one of the source docs provided in the council docket for Nov 15, item-200). For example, for 4848 Bermuda, unit A1, the parcel # is 4482422701.
This one is kind of odd – looks like the HO exemption is taken, but the tax bill to that address has been undeliverable. Hmmm.


avatar OB Dude November 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

Thank you for that information. Only 11 parcels are listed for this location. I do not want to disclose names or parcel numbers on this website but find the ownership and purchase dates information interesting….

1. 1978 HO exemption Mail returned by post office – In default
2. 2002 HO exemption
3. 1988 HO exemption
4. 2008 no exemption Common ownership with unit 5
5. 1992 no exemption
6. 2005 HO exemption Common ownership with no. 7 & 8
7. 2010 no exemption
8. 2010 no exemption
9. 2003 HO exemption
10. 2000 HO exemption
11. 2008 HO exemption


avatar Citizen Cane November 17, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Yes, it’s very interesting how many units were bought after the emergency (temporary) rip rap was dumped. I heard a rumor that one owner sold several units without disclosing that the rip rap was temporary, and that an expensive solution was still pending. To make matters worse….local hero Captain Sticky had already gone over to the dark side.


avatar OB Born November 17, 2010 at 11:41 am

You can thank those condos on the cliffs for the “no-mans-land” blight that is the “beach” between santa cruz and pescadero. Large stretches of “rip-rap” boulders cover what beach there would be in front of the seawall. Without natural erosion there are no sand beaches. The rocks are home to rats, big ones. And I personally warn my family and friends not to go walking alone on the path between orchard and santa cruz late due to some craziness I have witnessed from drifters who occasionally set up camp along the stretch.

Personally I object to any new construction of any kind on the coast there and would like to see the rip-rap removed and the area restored as much as possible to its natural state. If the condos are unsafe without added construction then they should be condemned and demo’d. The property can be transferred to the city and we can make nice grassy parks on the edge of the cliff. Problem solved. Its just a shame that such a unique and beautiful part of coastline could be so ugly and unusable so that a few people can have homes on the cliffs edge.

This opinion is from a 36yr old lifelong resident born blocks from the location and currently living on orchard 1 block away.


avatar It Happens November 17, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Well one can’t stop nature. Why even build/buy the homes there in the first place? That’s almost the same as building a home next to a golf course and not expecting at some point a ball coming through a window, or hitting someone trying to relax, enjoying the view from the back yard.


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