Ed Harris on the Dangers at the End of Santa Cruz Ave in Ocean Beach

by on January 27, 2017 · 25 comments

in Environment, History, Life Events, Ocean Beach

By Ed Harris

The rocky shore between the Ocean Beach Pier and Santa Cruz Cove is an area that has claimed several lives.

On January 21, two woman were swept into the water at Santa Cruz Cove.  Lifeguards responded and learned a citizen had rescued one women but the other was still in the water.  The surf at this point was 15 feet, making the rescue attempt difficult and dangerous.  Lifeguards entered the water unable to see her as they battled strong surge and tried to breath in the thick ocean foam.  After 40 minutes, the woman was recovered and transported to the hospital, but unfortunately did not survive. Several lifeguards sustained minor injuries, and two were taken to the hospital for observation.

This scenario has happened there before.  I recall a stormy night in the early nineties when we lost another young woman in the same spot.  This area has claimed several lives in my career and even before I started.  It’s time to try and prevent this from happening again.

In my travels to other countries, I have seen signs that warn people about similar dangers.  The signs are not just simple warning signs – often times, they are memorial warnings placed in areas where waves have washed away families.  On a recent trip to Iceland, I read about those killed after venturing onto the glacier.  The Kern River has a running number of people who perish annually.

I encourage Ocean Beach to work with the City of San Diego to honor those who have perished and protect those who visit by placing signs that describe the danger and the names of those lost.  Signage should be posted at each of the entry points.  Some entry points should be closed during heavy weather, as we do for the pier and the jetties.  We are behind on this, we should make it happen quickly before another life is lost.

Ed Harris is a former City Council member who represented Ocean Beach and Point Loma and lifeguard Sergeant

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

kh January 27, 2017 at 11:57 am

Certain parts of the cliff trail are dangerous almost every day at high tide, and a slip and fall on the algae in some places could leave you in the drink, bouncing off the rocks below at any time. A few spots certainly need improvement but the only way it’s going to be safe is to pour a concrete path across the entire cliff and put up a 12 ft wall to keep people from venturing past it.

There are 5 or 6 entry points to get in there, and I don’t see how they could all be closed. Education would help, and maybe more attention from the lifeguards during high surf.


nostalgic January 28, 2017 at 7:08 am

Years ago, beach stairs near us had a gate. It was padlocked open, but in storm conditions, a city employee came by and padlocked it closed. The gate had a sign on it only visible when it was closed. I am sure it contained the word DANGER, but I don’t remember if it said Dangerous Cliffs, Danger-High Surf, Danger – Storm Conditions, but something like that. The sign was invisible when the gate was open. When the dangers were past, the city employee came and padlocked it open again. No, it wasn’t that many years ago. Yes, it does require somebody to actually do something. Seemed to work.


Geoff Page January 27, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Another idea would be to do something similar to what you see in Mexico and some places in the States. Put up a cross or a memorial where people have died with information on what happened. I’ve seen places in Mexico where the road is so dangerous there are collections of crosses in one spot, that really gets your attention. I have often warned people about dangers at the Cliffs. A few are appreciative but many people seem to resent you saying anything. Knowing people have actually died is harder to ignore.


Geoff Page January 27, 2017 at 1:43 pm

As Ed mentioned, do something similar to what you see in Mexico and some places in the States. Put up a cross or a memorial where people have died with information on what happened. I’ve seen places in Mexico where the road is so dangerous there are collections of crosses in one spot, that really gets your attention. I have often warned people about dangers at the Cliffs. A few are appreciative but many people seem to resent you saying anything. Knowing people have actually died is harder to ignore.


OB Dude January 27, 2017 at 2:30 pm

People need to think!

For those that need a warning maybe their cell phones can alarm warning them to get back on land….similar to the warnings when you approach a flooded area. Can the city install trigger devices so that when a phone gets xyz number of feet from the cliffs or rocks it just keeps buzzing?


Geoff Page January 27, 2017 at 2:35 pm

I don’t disagree, OB Dude. The problem is that we have a big tourist population coming here who have no knowledge of ocean at all because they don’t live near one. Look at how many people drown trying to swim back into a rip tide when all they had to do was swim parallel to the shore for a very short distance and they would be out of it. I think it is up to us, the people who do understand the ocean, to provide the information and the warnings for those visitors. If, as Ed said, several people have perished at this same location, then shame on this city for not putting up anything to educate and warn visitors.


nostalgic January 27, 2017 at 3:21 pm

In addition to your article, we also heard elsewhere that someone nearby who was not a lifeguard jumped in and was responsible for saving one life before lifeguards got there. Can you tell us some more about this true OB hero?


Ed Harris January 28, 2017 at 12:59 pm

I do not know who he was. I have the same information you do from the media.


OB Dude January 28, 2017 at 9:52 am

Why doesn’t the city put signage up all along the cliffs with warnings and “at your own risk”? Does anyone know the reason? Since education to visitors seems necessary.


Larry Maggard January 28, 2017 at 10:28 am

I’m one of those people; Three years ago I ended up with a broken leg. I tried for over a year to get the city to install lights and signage, even hired an OB attorney. The city basically told me to go to hell because they’re NOT liable for personal injury on City property. I had to give up when I found out I had stage 4 cancer. The city made itself EXCEMPT for personal injury liability They don’t give a shit about us and they made that abundantly clear to me and my attorney.

OB resident 6 years.


triggerfinger January 31, 2017 at 11:16 am

Where did you fall at? The city may not care but I bet enough locals do. Some spots just need some elbow grease, others will take some heavy equipment and funding. The cliffs need to be kept open and accessible.

We all know the city’s MO is to neglect everything until it disintegrates then spend money on a permanently locked gate instead.


Larry Maggard January 31, 2017 at 2:22 pm

At the end of Narragansett. There’s been funding allocated for maintenance and repairs for the specific spot where I fell on three occasions but nothing has been done. I’d like to know where the money went; $140,000+ total.


kh January 31, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Here’s more info on that. It covers the orchard stairs and the salt pool stairs. http://cipapp.sandiego.gov/CIPDetail.aspx?ID=B14073. But NOT the Bermuda stairs which collapsed. Its a design-build that supposedly began in 2008, but shows the scheduled design phase passed, yet isn’t fully funded and no contractor has even been selected.


Shay January 28, 2017 at 1:06 pm

We don’t need crosses littering the area, as I’m sure some people who parished were not all Christians…plus, it’s depressing, but in Hawaii and FL there are different color flags representing the current state of the ocean and things to be aware of. Ex..A red flag with a sign (large waves/rip currents) telling people what it means would be helpful. Or something along those lines. Seems like the lifeguards might be a good resource to brainstorm with, but memorials don’t seem like an educational answer to the current state of the water. My 2 cents


nostalgic January 29, 2017 at 7:32 am

I like the flag idea; OB has so many signs everybody ignores them. I wonder how many city signs actually exist in OB? We must have 1000. People walk right past them, no matter what they say. We are programmed to filter them out because there are too many.


Geoff Page January 29, 2017 at 8:57 am

I said a cross or some other type of memorial. And, the. cross is not a Christian only shmbol.


OB Dude January 29, 2017 at 10:35 am

Probably right about the memorial stuff…..those are along roads and no one slows down.

It seems it all boils down to personal accountability.


Ed Harris January 28, 2017 at 1:16 pm

This is not an article designed to point fingers. There are many dangerous places along our shoreline that do not have the track record this area does. Signs can help, but they can also be overused causing people to disregard them. We cannot lock all entry points and we do not want to restrict access without sufficient cause. There are places that we close when there are large swells such as the OB Pier, Mission Bay Jetties and Children’s Pool Wall. When I look back on tragedies in my career and remember stories from former guards, this area stands out. It is reasonable to evaluate a need for gates and for signage that catches people’s attention. I will ask the OBTC to consider this issue.


kh January 31, 2017 at 11:20 am

Thank you. Now is the time because Conrad said the Bermuda stairs and silverspray stairs are on their wish list for funding. We need to get a consensus of everything needed down there to preserve this asset for both locals and tourists.


South OB Girl January 30, 2017 at 11:24 am

Conditions getting down to Bermuda beach are so bad another horrific incident is not far behind. Whether at Santa Cruz or Bermuda. Do not enter signs don’t deter everyone. I see some great comments above — installing gates and closing gates during a storm, cross memorials… Every small beach in our community is becoming more and more of a hazard — 2 deaths at Santa Cruz in the past year (the death toll and injury reports at the cliffs and OB beaches are among topics followed continuously by Frank and Rag writers). It may be time for the City to move more quickly and with more of a plan for our small beaches than it has to date.


Debbie January 30, 2017 at 3:21 pm
South OB Girl January 31, 2017 at 10:37 am

I have seen Ed Harris be a remarkable leader so many times as City Council Rep and head of the lifeguards. Not sure how many times I have seen a politician think a little outside the box… As he has just done. The memorial markings are not the usual City protocol — and what a good idea. Truly putting the community first and thank you for doing that Mr. Harris, and thank you for taking the time to write this article.


Ed Harris January 31, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Thank you for the kind words. OB has so much positive energey for things that help us all. It is a great community to be part of.


Cory M January 31, 2017 at 11:54 am

I wonder if some sort of Large sign or billboard would help? One placed as you head south on Sunset cliffs near Newport and another where the cliffs begin and the houses stop? I’ve lived at sunset cliffs all my life and in the last 2-3 years there is a huge number of accidents and fatalities, far more than when I was growing up. Most people from out of town (as stated above) who don’t understand the dangers of the ocean and cliffs. I know billboards can be an eye sore, but if it’s the right design it could really help draw attention and make people think. Perhaps it could also remind visitors to pick up their trash as well?


Debbie January 31, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Maybe one of those traffic signs that state the appropriate message that is visible during the day and night

Something similar to http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/warning-matrix-sign.html


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