The California Coastal Commission delivered a longstanding answer to a longstanding question on Wednesday: The rock wall is the best way to protect Goleta Beach Park in the years to come, they unanimously stated.
In its ruling, spearheaded by Commissioner Jana Zimmer, the agency awarded a 20-year permit to the 1,200 feet of rocks installed on the western end of the beach. Regular monitoring will occur to track any possible effects of the revetment on the beach, and any changes would be strongly analyzed after the first 10 years.
The approval was a decisive win for the county, which charged to keep the rocks in place in 2014. When a mega-storm hit at the end of February 2014, the rock wall was credited with protecting Goleta Beach’s grassy park — and its many popular amenities, including the playground and picnic areas — but not at the expense of the sandy beach. Only a few weeks after that storm, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously — following 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf’s lead — to request that the Coastal Commission keep the rocks in place.
Wednesday’s vote was a blow to the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), which has been representing the Surfrider Foundation in advocating against keeping the rocks. At this week’s meeting, EDC representatives said they’d be willing to compromise, asking that not all of the rocks be removed but only a small segment at the farthest west end (as well as a portion of the adjacent parking lot), arguing that those rocks were jeopardizing the beach.
Coastal Commission staff countered that most of the 1,200 feet of rocks remain buried most of the time and are “not expected to result in significant adverse effects on coastal processes and sand supply.” That finding may change in 20-plus years, staff said, at which point they could reassess the performance of the revetment.
Most of the community members who spoke before the commission voiced their wholehearted desire to see the rocks remain at Goleta Beach, which attracts 1.5 million visitors a year. Once the commission made its direction known, the room burst into applause and Wolf hugged county staff and supporters.