State and local officials gathered under perfect, powder-blue skies on the bluff above Surfer’s Beach on Friday to celebrate the completion of a project that was widely hailed as necessary and beneficial to all.
The $1.8 million project includes rip-rap to shore up the eroded land that has come close to crumbling Highway 1, as well as improvements to the Coastal Trail and concrete stairs down to the beach. About 100 people turned out to cut the ribbon on the stairs and congratulate all the partners on a landmark project on the coast.
State Sen. Jerry Hill said those stairs are one of 1,450 such beach access points in California, “and I think we have the most beautiful one right here.”
Several speakers noted the picture-perfect conditions for the ceremonial opening of work that was completed earlier this summer. Hill suggested he might never leave.
“Just take a deep breath,” he said.” “When we leave here, I’m buying a tent and putting it here and you won’t get me out of that tent.”
All involve say the project was complicated by myriad jurisdictional lines that come together at that point. The city of Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County, Caltrans, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Coastal Commission, among other agencies have an interest in the area. Despite that, the project was completed in about a year, a fact those involved consider just short of a miracle.
The official work began with a letter in September 2013 from San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley to Caltrans District Supervisor B.J. Sartipi. He wrote that he was concerned that the next series of storms could wash out Highway 1, creating a travel nightmare for all Coastside residents.
“We were anticipating that there would be big king tides plus sea level rise so we needed to get on this right away,” Horsley said. “I am really proud of the fact that we re-established the Coastal Trail, too.”
Midcoast Community Council member Chris Johnson echoed that sentiment, emphasizing the recreational benefits to the project.
“Not only did it save Highway 1 but we got the stairs to the beach and a continuation of the bike path,” he said.
The project is permitted for 10 years. During that time officials say they hope to settle on an even longer solution to the erosion caused by the breakwater to the north. The rip-rap could be removed at some future date. That is true for the stairs as well, though there are no plans to do so.
California Assemblyman Rich Gordon said that standing on the bluffs reminded him of working to save Mirada Surf from development years earlier.
“How ironic would it have been to save that and lose Highway 1?” he asked, going on to call the project a “win-win-win.”