Shifting Sands: San Francisco Begins Huge Erosion-Control Project

Ocean Beach has too much sand on one end, too little on the other

Molly Samuel/KQED

Trucks are moving sand from the north end of Ocean Beach to the south end.

Portions of San Francisco’s historic Great Highway are closed for a massive sand-moving project, part of an effort to slow erosion along the stretch of Pacific coastline known as Ocean Beach. By the end of the project, trucks will have moved about 100,000 cubic yards of sand.

“It’s the equivalent of 31 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “It’s a lot of sand that we’re having to move in a short period of time and that’s why we’re closing down the lanes of the Great Highway to accommodate the truck traffic.”

The worst of the erosion is at the south end of the beach. Luckily, the north end actually has too much sand. The city is working with the National Park Service, to see if moving sand is more effective at stemming erosion than piling up boulders has been. The Park Service controls the south end of the beach, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area known as Fort Funston. The GGNRA and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have been involved in the creation of the Ocean Beach Master Plan, a bold initiative to stem erosion and prepare for sea level rise at Ocean Beach, though this particular project is not a part of that plan.

Southbound lanes of the Great Highway will be off-limits from 6:00 am until 5:00 pm on weekdays. The beach is still accessible, though some parking is affected. The project is supposed to be completed by the end of September.

Read more about the Ocean Beach Sand Management Project at the Ocean Beach Bulletin.

  • Christy

    31 Olympic swimming pools worth of sand? That’s like a fart in a hurricane. It will all be on the outer bars after the first giant swell. A total waste of time and money, and demonstrates a complete ignorance of the processes of the ocean and the scale of the forces at work.

  • Bill McLaughlin

    We at Surfrider definitely agree that much of this sand will ultimately wash away. In the big picture, this really underscores the need to fastrack a long term, sustainable plan. It would be foolish and wasteful to rely on sand replenishment over and over again as is done at other beaches around the country.