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SFPUC Launches Ocean Beach Improvement Plan to Address Coastal Erosion Issues on Westside of San Francisco
Agency will oversee effort to move nearly 100,000 tons of sand for interim protection and improved beach access while long-term climate action improvements are developed
Posted Date: 11/18/2019 10:00 AM

San Francisco, CA – The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and the National Park Service (NPS), will begin sand management activities at Ocean Beach this month to address coastal erosion issues on the City’s westside. The initiative will begin this month and conclude by January 2020.

“Protecting and maintaining our natural resources is a critical component of our mission,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “This project will help restore eroded areas on Ocean Beach while allowing the SFPUC to continue with the critical functions of our wastewater treatment system.”

As part of the project, the SFPUC is pursuing both short and long-term improvements along Ocean Beach south of Sloat Boulevard to address climate change induced coastal erosion. These immediate upgrades are designed to protect wastewater infrastructure and improve beach access while longer-term improvements are being developed.

This project is a repeat of the successful management actions taken in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018, in which excess sand in front of the O'Shaughnessy Seawall (in north Ocean Beach) was transported to the erosion hotspot south of Sloat Boulevard (south Ocean Beach.) 

The beach at the northern end of Ocean Beach has been widening and accumulating sand while the area south of Sloat Boulevard has experienced a loss of beach and is eroding. The accumulation of sand impedes visitor beach access by filling in the seawall’s stairwells and promenade and increases sand maintenance efforts and costs for the NPS and the City. 

The placement of excess sand at the south of Sloat Boulevard has been an important action to address climate change and to protect the Lake Merced Transport Tunnel, a critical piece of infrastructure that transports wastewater flows from the west side of the city to the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Plant. Placing sand in this erosion hotspot is environmentally friendly and helps to avoid placement of hard engineered structures such as rock revetments. 

This year's project includes the following components: 

Sand Backpass: Crews will excavate about 65,000 cubic yards of loose sand along the O’Shaughnessy Seawall at the northern reach of Ocean Beach and transport it to Ocean Beach south of Sloat Boulevard. That is the equivalent of moving 97,500 tons of sand.

Sandbags: Crews will complete maintenance of existing sandbag structures and place approximately 28 new sandbags. The sandbags are currently stored at the SF Zoo’s leased property.

Beach Debris: Crews will remove and dispose of hazardous beach debris.

What to expect: 
  • Southbound traffic on the Great Highway will be detoured to Sunset Boulevard between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard. 
  • Northbound traffic will experience a lane reduction between Highway 35 and Sloat Boulevard. Muni bus stops in the same (northbound) stretch will not be affected.
  • Beach access will be limited in certain areas when work is underway to protect public safety.
  • Parking areas at the south end of the O’Shaughnessy Seawall and the overlook parking areas south of Sloat Boulevard will not be available during construction.

In partnership with the California Coastal Commission and the NPS, the SFPUC monitors beach erosion and only takes action on an as-needed basis.

More information about the initiative is available After this work is complete, San Francisco Public Works will implement additional measures in this same area to improve stormwater management which is contributing to coastal erosion. Those actions are outlined below.

Related Projects in the Area:
To reduce Ocean Beach erosion and improve stormwater management, the construction of the Public Works Great Highway Localized Drainage Improvements Project is expected to begin after the SFPUC project ends and last for approximately six weeks. The project will overlay asphalt over a portion of the existing southbound lane of the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard to redirect surface water runoff toward the median of the road, remove existing asphalt concrete from the median area, and improve local stormwater drainage. Pedestrian and vehicular access may be limited in the area. Visit for more information.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is a department of the City and County of San Francisco. It delivers drinking water to 2.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area, collects and treats wastewater for the City and County of San Francisco, and generates clean power for municipal buildings, residents, and businesses. The SFPUC’s mission is to provide customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that values environmental and community interests and sustains the resources entrusted to our care. Learn more at