California lawmaker to introduce bill designed to help prevent bluff collapses

Posted at 7:48 AM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 10:16:23-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The chair of a state Senate committee announced Tuesday he will attempt to pass bipartisan legislation intended to prevent coastal bluff collapses like one last summer in Encinitas that killed three family members.

Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, made his comments following a hearing on the bill by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee in Sacramento, according to Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, the bill's author.

No vote was taken on the bill, SB 1090.

RELATED: Three dead, two injured in North County bluff collapse

"I welcome today's outcome as my effort has always been about saving lives and preserving beach access for all Californians," Bates said.

"I appreciate the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee for giving me an opportunity to rebut the claims of critics who have grossly distorted my bill. Working with Senator Stern, I look forward to continuing the conversation on how we can best protect public safety, preserve beach access, and safeguard private and public infrastructure."

The bill would obligate public agencies and private owners of seafront property in San Diego and Orange counties to mitigate coastal erosion.

The added requirements that would be mandated the bill would help prevent further tragedies on public beaches, according to Bates, such as the Aug. 2 triple-fatality bluff collapse at Grandview Surf Beach in the Leucadia neighborhood.

RELATED: Lawmakers hope $400K federal grant will help prevent future bluff collapse in Encinitas

Shortly before 3 p.m. that day, a roughly 25- by 30-foot section of sea cliff near Neptune Avenue gave way, collapsing onto Julie Davis, 65, her 35- year-old daughter, Anne Clave, and Davis' 62-year-old sister, Elizabeth Cox.

The latter victim, a San Francisco resident, died at the scene, and the other two, both of whom lived in Encinitas, died from their injuries at hospitals.

The women, who had gathered at the beach near Batiquitos Lagoon to celebrate Cox's victorious fight against breast cancer, were buried under tons of dirt and rock.

"There could have been more fatalities had friends and other family members present at the celebration not been a few feet away from the impact area at the time of the collapse," Bates wrote in an opinion piece published last week by the Coast News.

Three months after the women's deaths, a major cliff failure in Del Mar "put the entire coastal rail line in jeopardy and will now cost $100 million to repair," the senator noted.

"Concerns over more bluff collapses have become especially acute in San Diego and Orange Counties," Bates stated.

RELATED: Encinitas bluffs are a trouble spot known to geologists

"Millions of people visit our beaches each year but are forced to sit at the base of at-risk bluffs due to the lack of sand replenishment and minimal beach area during mid (level) to high tides."

Though the California Coastal Act of 1976 requires construction that alters natural shoreline processes to be permitted by the California Coastal Commission or a local government with an approved local coastal program, the process "does not prioritize erosion mitigation," according to Bates, who represents the 36th Senate District.

"Doing nothing to prevent additional bluff collapses is not acceptable," she asserted.

SB 1090 would require the Coastal Commission to review and approve a public agency's or homeowner's application for erosion-mitigation efforts in regard to planting, drainage and seawall or other reinforcing structures.

Approved applicants also would have to pay for the costs of sand replenishment and permit processing.