Projected Land Loss for Ocean Beach With Sea Rise Due to Climate Change

by on April 25, 2017 · 10 comments

in Ocean Beach

Editor’s Notes: The following post includes excerpts from Robert Burke’s “Pace of Sea Level Rising Quickly – Disaster Looms for Coastal San Diego“, published recently at San Diego UrbDeZine. Our excerpts focus on the effects on Ocean Beach.

Over the last few weeks, a vocal swath of San Diego has been quite polarized about large and small investors perhaps changing the nature of local communities thru the ongoing rental of homes principally in our coastal neighborhoods for profit. News reports have shown ‘for’ and ‘against’ waging this debate on the overall feel and makeup of Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, and elsewhere. This certainly is a debate worth having.

I have friends and family who have traveled from other parts and rented beachfront homes in order to enjoy San Diego’s weather and healthy atmosphere. Good for them and likely they didn’t pause to consider neighborhood dynamics when a vacation website offered the warmth and sands of San Diego to the weather weary.

Sorry to say, this debate, along with today’s pressing dynamics ignore an insidious and far more pressing fact: Mission Beach, Coastal Pacific/Imperial/Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Fiesta Island, the Convention Center area, and even Mission Valley are under direct, dire attack by the sea. Yes, these whole areas are under threat of being lost all together to the sea.

The Federal Government years ago developed comprehensive research-backed projections in which many of these areas will suffer inundation by the sea. So the question unfortunately should not about the presence of short and long term rentals down the street; but rather, will there even be a street and what, if anything, to do about it now! …

… The EPA is projecting that the entire West coast is suffering a never-seen-before increase in erosion, sand depletion, challenges to ports, beaches, and low laying regions. Beach erosion on the West Coast was 76 percent above normal during the recent El Nino, a study by scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara and other institutions found. And according to a news release from the National Science Foundation, there conditions are termed “unprecedented.”

In a study released two weeks ago by the USGS, using a newly-developed computer model called “CoSMoS-COAST” (Coastal Storm Modeling System – Coastal One-line Assimilated Simulation Tool) scientists predict that with limited human intervention, 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches may become completely eroded (up to existing coastal infrastructure or sea-cliffs) by the year 2100 under scenarios of sea-level rise of one to two meters.

The study’s lead author, Sean Vitousek, stated that erosion of Southern California beaches is not just a matter of the region losing its identity and tourism dollars, but of exposing critical infrastructure, businesses and homes to damage.

Often such studies seem compelling, a curiosity even, but their impact is not considered in terms of our neighborhood, this place. Unfortunately, we can no longer take these studies as something remote or impacting others. Below is a quick summary of the known projected impact on a few beach areas here in San Diego:

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach suffers from twin water inundation issues. On January 18, 2017, homes and business west of Bacon Street were flooded due to the storm drains being overwhelmed in a heavy storm. The water had nowhere to go. In January 2016, storms coupled with heavy winds brought the ocean over the traditional high tide and into parking garages, businesses, and low-level homes on Bacon Street and all parts below Newport and to the west.

According to flood maps provided by Climate Central, Risk Finder, Click-a-City function (, the following is the projected land loss when the sea rises by a 2 to 6 feet from today’s levels.  Consider losing Dog Beach, the neighborhood from Newport to Peninsula in the next 10 years. …

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie April 25, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Et al,
Trust that Kellogg Beach would be similarly inundated.   We see the result of “Back-up”  annually at the foot of Canon Street, at Anchorage Lane…. Betcha the confluence of San Antonio & Lawrence has similar problems. 


Henry Wakefield April 26, 2017 at 11:50 am

Please stop Global Whining


Frank Gormlie April 27, 2017 at 8:38 pm

I know, I know, it’s all a vast, liberal conspiracy.


rick callejon April 26, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Global warming is a Chinese hoax per the Marmalade Hairball.


Rufus April 27, 2017 at 6:10 am

Chicken Little would be so proud!!


Roland Espinosa April 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm

The previous comment are probably from folks who don’t have a home near the beach. I do. And I am concerned about global warming and the Trump agenda to undo all the good Obama tried to do under his administration.


Rufus April 27, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Roland….62 years in 92107, from the flats to the hillside. I was here before the pier.

I make my living on the ocean. Honestly, I have not seen any evidence that the level of the ocean in San Diego or Mission Bay is any higher or lower than it was when I was a kid.

I know…personal observation is not very scientific; I don’t have a PhD. But I am a stubborn curmudgeon.


Frank Gormlie April 27, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Rufus – tell that to the Pacific Islanders whose lands are disappearing under water.

I was “here” before the OB Pier was built too and I can tell the weather has changed. It’s not only the sea rise, my friend, but the entire global-weather system.


Rufus April 28, 2017 at 5:23 am

Frank….I was simply giving my personal observations of what I see in Mission and San Diego Bays. That’s all. Pick a landmark, say, the Catamaran Hotel. It’s just feet above Mission Bay. Been there since the 50s. Not flooded by sea level rise. Houses along Kellogg Beach, not flooded by sea level rise.

As far as islands in the Pacific, I don’t have any knowledge because I grew up here. All I know is what I see here.

And you and I are on the same page with changing weather. But changing might be the wrong word, I’d suggest evolving. The weather has evolved for a gadzillion years. Weather is dynamic. The Sahara used to be a rain forest, Europe used to be under an icecap, it used to snow in OB. Oh wait, that was like 1962 when I was walking to school one morning. It melted quickly. My mom got pictures.

Anyway….we’re on the same page. Now how about a nice Hess double IPA while we watch the world pass by on Voltaire and Cable? It beats TV.


Frank Gormlie April 28, 2017 at 10:32 am

Rufus – I’m an Imperial Stout dude myself. I’ve helped start a tradition now, that after every OB Town Council meeting a bunch of us head to the nearest beer-tasting room – and close ’em down (10:30 at the latest).

I get it, if one looks around OB and Pt Loma, there doesn’t seem to be any changes over – say – the last 50 years or so. But just it – the climatologists are saying that sea level rise will accelerate over the next 50 years – much faster than the last 50 years.

Do you remember Needle’s Eye? It went the way of natural erosion.

Neither you nor I will be around to see what the next 50 years will bring. But how can we risk it? We certainly have children and grand-children that will be around.


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