The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved a project to replace the Medio Bridge in Miramar on Friday after a lengthy discussion among commissioners, staff and a litany of Coastside residents.
The new bridge is set to be constructed by the end of this year. The current bridge was closed due to safety concerns by the San Mateo County Department of Public Works, which rerouting the trail inland.
The Coastal Commission staff recommended replacement at its current location despite the necessity for armoring, which the staff and many environmental experts see as detrimental to preserving and protecting coastline. Most of the commissioners who spoke on Friday, including Commissioner Sara Aminzadeh, said they supported the project but worried about setting a precedent by allowing armoring on the Coastal Trail.
On Friday, Coastal Program Analyst Erik Martinez walked through the proposal and proposed alternatives, including moving the bridge inland on Arroyo de en Medio. He said staff landed on the current location as the most feasible, environmentally sound and cost- and time-efficient solution. Martinez noted that a relocation inland would still require armoring along the Arroyo de en Medio. Plus, neighborhood roads would need bike and pedestrian lanes.
In addition to replacing the bridge, Martinez said, the project will include new stairs to access the beach and an ocean overlook.
Friday’s meeting drew a crowd of Coastsiders in support of the project, many who use the bridge or live in the Miramar neighborhood, including Half Moon Bay Mayor Robert Brownstone and Midcoast Community Council member Gregg Dieguez.
The Midcoast Community Council had initially opposed replacing the bridge at its current location because of concerns about erosion that might be caused by proposed armoring. But after hearing from Miramar residents who opposed the relocation inland, the MCC reversed course, voicing its support for the replacement project as-is.
One major reason the MCC and other locals support the bridge project, which is set to be completed this year, is safety. During its closure, Coastal Trail bike and pedestrian traffic has been rerouted inland through the Miramar neighborhood and to a shoulder of Highway 1, creating a sometimes intersection between cars and people.
Additionally, the process to explore a realignment of the bridge could take years, MCC Chair Michelle Weil said earlier this year. That moved the MCC to support the proposal. Miramar residents circulated a petition to show widespread support of the bridge replacement project at its current location.
Among the opponents of rebuilding in place is the Surfrider Foundation. It argues in a letter to the commission that the bridge’s short lifespan and the inclusion of rip rap and soil nail walls aren’t in line with local planning to address sea level rise. The group says alternatives to move the bridge inland were not fully explored and should be considered instead.
“... This proposal isn’t cost-effective nor is it in keeping with best practices and policy guidance to address sea level rise,” the group wrote.
Surfrider representatives were at the Friday meeting, too, in support of alternatives and opposed to the current replacement. Moss Beach resident and Surfrider member Kimberly Williams advocated for the inland route on environmental grounds.
“Sea walls are in direct conflict with protection of the coast,” Williams said.
Even many supporters of the project agree that the county needs to begin planning now for an eventual reroute of the trail and bridge crossing the Arroyo de en Medio due to sea level rise. In its letter, the MCC called on the county to begin planning for the reroute and to further study the area to understand the effects of erosion.