Ladera Stairs Closed at Sunset Cliffs While City Studies Cliff Collapse

by on February 14, 2018 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach

Sign at stairs at end of Ladera Street; screengrab from CBS8News.

The city of San Diego has closed the cliff top stairs that lead to the rocks and beaches below at the foot of Ladera Street in Point Loma’s Sunset Cliffs. And the city said the stairs will remain closed while staff studies what has happened and why.

At first a major crack appeared along side of the bluff – and then a portion of the cliff gave way by Tuesday, Feb. 13th. Lifeguards closed the stairs off – and city staff met to discuss and study the situation and figure out what to do.

Seismologist and San Diego State professor Dr. Pat Abbot, Ph.D. told CBS8News:

“This is a life threatening sort of situation. These things become domino-like. One mass falls away and then that makes it ready for the next mass to fall away – coming down one after another.”

Dr. Abbot – the “go-to-guy” for local media on Sunset Cliff crumbles and cracks – added, ominously:

“Frankly, there is nothing to investigate. You have a very unstable cliff. You absolutely do not want people walking down there because it’s just a matter of timing.”

Crack that appeared prior to collapse. screengrab from CBS8News.

Apparently, many are ignoring the warning signs despite the dangers inherent in unstable cliffs – if the immediate bluffs are unstable. CBS8

Needle’s Eye – along Sunset Cliffs, circa mid-1965. This is an example of the effects of erosion.

Erosion – a naturally occurring process – has always been the reality at these cliffs. Sure, humans need to be aware of the dangers at these beautiful edges of land and the waters and rocks below. (Unfortunately, the OB Rag study of deaths and injuries over the years at Sunset Cliffs shows 5 deaths or major injuries a year at a minimum.)

But humans can’t hold back these forces of nature – the ocean, sand and wind and water – (which does not mean we can’t control human-created wastewater run-off). Yet we continue to build revetments, throw down bars and concrete, install sea walls, drop huge boulders in efforts to stop the erosion. And in the process, block the natural creation of sand – and then wonder why our  beaches are losing sand.)

It’s all temporary.

Don’t build more fences, either.

Stairs at Ladera. screengrab from CBS8News.

On an historical note, this writer remembers when there weren’t any stairs at all at Ladera – except those toe-holds carved in the sandstone. I recall as a young surfer climbing up and down the face of the cliff holding onto my 9’6″ log as best I could – back in the Sixties. The stairs have been a real luxury over the decades since they were built – allowing a lot more humans to enjoy the beaches and rocks that grip the side of the cliffs.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page February 14, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Just want to be sure I understand this, Frank. The stairs themselves aren’t in danger, the danger is a failing piece of the bluff below and they want to keep people out of that area, correct? I’ve heard about the old path, I can’t imagine climbing that steep bluff while carrying a longboard. But, surfers will not be denied, regardless of the consequences.


Frank Gormlie February 15, 2018 at 9:54 am

CBS8 quoted: Dr. Abbot said the stairs are stable but it’s what could happen at the bottom of the jagged cliff.


nostalgic February 14, 2018 at 9:09 pm

A reminder that the stairs at Ladera Street, Point Loma Avenue, and Bermuda Avenue are closed.


micporte February 15, 2018 at 8:40 am

coastal review: loss of 15 ft:/year by erosion, get it? got it? good, okay? facts are stubborn things as John Adams (2nd president. of the US) said… geological facts are there, read them, do not develop on the coast…lifeguards? consider floating temples of safeguard instead of trying to build on disappearing beaches/cliffs, thank you all for doing some research instead of fancy luncheons with developers, visit marine /coastal geologist scientists instead.. and yeah, the stairs are history, so are our beaches…all too soon..


OB Dude February 15, 2018 at 9:26 am

oh yeah, that plastic tape is going to keep people out!


Peter from South O February 16, 2018 at 8:32 am

And then:

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8/CNS) – A man was injured early Friday morning when he fell roughly 40 feet down an ocean-front bluff in the Sunset Cliffs area of San Diego, authorities said.

It happened around 3 a.m. near Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Ladera Street, just northwest of Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department officials said.


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