This webpage is a portal to information about Ocean Beach, including plans, studies, and projects that support this vital area of San Francisco. There are a number of city, state, and federal agencies working on various efforts at Ocean Beach to adapt to climate change and coastal erosion. Recognizing the importance of coordinating on these efforts, these agencies have come together to form the Ocean Beach Coordination Team. The Team is coordinating closely on a variety of projects in the area and on communication with affected communities.
- San Francisco Planning Department
- San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
- San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks
- San Francisco Public Works
- San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
- National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- San Francisco County Transportation Authority
- San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR)
- San Francisco Zoo
- California State Coastal Conservancy
- The Office of Supervisor Gordon Mar (District 4)
- The Office of Supervisor Myrna Melgar (District 7)
Background & Planning Efforts
Area Overview and Infrastructure at Risk
Ocean Beach, a 3.5-mile stretch of sand along San Francisco's rugged Pacific coast, is one of the gems of the city's landscape. It draws a diverse population of more than 300,000 visitors each year and is an important piece of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Ocean Beach is also home to major elements of San Francisco's wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.
San Francisco has a combined wastewater and stormwater system, meaning that stormwater runoff is processed through the same system as wastewater from sinks and toilets. Learn more about San Francisco's combined sewer system here. On San Francisco's west side, gravity brings combined flows to the Westside Pump Station, where it is pumped to the Oceanside Treatment Plant. You can view an animation video of the Westside wastewater system here. The Oceanside Treatment Plant and related facilities - completed in the early 1990s - were built to protect coastal water quality and bring San Francisco in compliance with the Clean Water Act. This combined sewer and stormwater system has reduced the number of discharges into coastal waters by 90% and is a model of environmental performance.
Ocean Beach is a challenging setting, with storm-driven waves contributing to erosion of coastal bluffs. As climate change causes sea levels to rise, erosion is expected to worsen, further threatening coastal infrastructure like roads and sewers, and causing the beach to narrow. At South Ocean Beach, shoreline erosion is threatening the most seaward component of the combined system — the Lake Merced Tunnel, a fourteen-foot diameter pipe under the Great Highway. Other components are located just behind the tunnel. To address erosion and sea level rise threats to this critical infrastructure, SFPUC participated in the development of the Ocean Beach Master Plan (more detail below) and subsequently published a Coastal Protection Measures & Management Strategy Report.
City, state, and federal agencies are working together with beach users and community members to adapt to these coastal changes and to protect critical infrastructure while supporting open space, recreation, and natural habitat.
Ocean Beach Master Plan
Since 2010, there has been an extensive interagency and public process to develop the Ocean Beach Master Plan, a comprehensive vision to address sea level rise, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystem, and improve public access. This Master Plan, published in 2012, contains over forty recommendations grouped into one of six Key Moves and organized by three geographical reaches. These recommendations are designed to be implemented incrementally over a period of decades.
South Reach: South of Sloat Boulevard
- Key Move 1: Reroute the Great Highway behind the zoo via Sloat and Skyline Boulevards
- Key Move 2: Introduce a multipurpose coastal protection/restoration/access system
Middle Reach: Lincoln Way to Sloat Boulevard
Key Move 3: Reduce the width of the Great Highway to provide amenities and facilitate managed retreat*
- Key Move 4: Restore the dunes along the middle reach
North Reach: Lincoln Way to 48th Avenue
- Key Move 5: Create a better connection between Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach
- Key Move 6: Introduce bicycle and pedestrian improvements north of Balboa Street
* This move was ultimately removed from the Plan.
Related Sea Level Rise / Waterfront Projects
As a result of these planning efforts, a number of projects are currently underway that will implement aspects of the Ocean Beach Master Plan (e.g., changes to roadway south of Sloat, changes to public access, and coastal management) and prepare Ocean Beach for a changing climate. These projects, implemented by members of the Ocean Beach Coordination Team, are designed to address sea level rise and coastal erosion in South Ocean Beach by making changes to roadways south of Sloat Boulevard and implementing coastal improvements. More information on these projects is included below.
Changes to Roadway South of Sloat
The projects detailed below will make changes to the Great Highway between Sloat and Skyline Boulevards. This series of projects work together towards increasing resilience, improving reliability, and reducing vulnerability. Implementing a managed retreat approach helps increase the resiliency of south Ocean Beach and minimize the impacts of sea level rise.
Great Highway and Skyline Intersection Improvements
The California Department of Transportation will signalize the intersection at Great Highway and Skyline Boulevard and make necessary ADA and safety improvements to the intersection. The project will improve overall safety for all road users at the intersection of Great Highway and Skyline as well as contribute to improved connectivity of pedestrian and bicycle access in the Ocean Beach area. The Great Highway and Skyline Boulevard intersection improvements project led by California Department of Transportation is anticipated to begin construction in Fall 2022.
Sloat and Skyline Intersection Improvements
The Sloat and Skyline Intersection Improvements Project will improve overall safety for all road users at the intersection of Sloat and Skyline Boulevards. The project, being implemented by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is currently in the planning phase with several alternatives being considered. The Sloat Skyline Intersection Alternatives Analysis will identify options to make the intersection a more inviting, safe, and comfortable experience for all users. This project is an important component of vehicular circulation as other changes to the area are implemented.
More information about the Sloat and Skyline Intersection Improvements Project can be found here.
Sloat Boulevard Quick-Build Project
The SFMTA is kicking off a new effort to improve traffic safety for all users on Sloat Boulevard between the Great Highway and Skyline Boulevard. The project’s top goal is to get ahead of the closure of the Great Highway Extension (south of Sloat Boulevard) by making changes to Sloat Boulevard to improve safety for people walking and bicycling while safely accommodating the expected additional vehicle traffic. SFMTA staff will have more to share on this project in the coming months.
Changes to Public Access
Fort Funston Trail Connection
The Fort Funston Trail Connection Project proposes to construct a trail between the new parking area at the intersection of Great Highway and Skyline Boulevard after completion of the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptaqtion Project and proposes to connect to the Fort Funston trail network, closing a gap in the California Coastal Trail. This project would be implemented by the National Park Service but includes partner agencies, stakeholders, and the public in its planning, compliance, and design. Additional information will be made available once the project enters the planning phase.
More information about this and other National Park Service projects at Ocean Beach can be found here.
Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project
On behalf of the City and County of San Francisco (CCSF), the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is leading efforts to implement one of CCSF’s first climate change adaptation projects, the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project (Project) located at Ocean Beach, south of Sloat Boulevard.
CCSF has been actively engaged in Ocean Beach planning efforts for many years. The Ocean Beach Master Plan (OBMP) was completed in 2012. It was an interagency effort to develop a sustainable long-term strategy for Ocean Beach. The OBMP presents 6 key moves that are organized by geographical reaches and designed to be implemented incrementally over a period of decades. CCSF’s current efforts focus on South Ocean Beach and include 2 of the 6 key moves; 1) removal of the Great Highway between Sloat and Skyline Boulevard and 2) the introduction of a multipurpose coastal protection/restoration/access system. This project will comprise of the concepts developed through the OBMP and include elements such as managed retreat, structural protection, access and recreation improvements, and beach nourishment through the placement of sand. In addition, this project will address California Coastal Act requirements to remove existing shoreline armoring placed during large storms by CCSF to protect the Great Highway.
Consistent with the recommendations in the OBMP, this work is necessary to protect the integrity of wastewater assets built to protect public health and the environment, including the Lake Merced Tunnel (LMT), the Westside Pump Station and the Oceanside Treatment Plant. The Project is being implemented in three phases: Short-term Improvements Phase, United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) Beach Nourishment Phase, and Long-term Improvements Phase. Each of these phases is described in more detail below.
On December 8, 2021, the Planning Department published the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project. To read the draft EIR, please visit the Planning Department's Environmental Review webpage.
More information about the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project can be found here.
Short-Term Improvements Phase
The Short-Term Improvements Phase provides interim protection and improved beach access while the Long-term Improvements Phase is under development. The Short-term Improvements Phase involves beach nourishment activities (e.g. sand backpassing) and installation of sandbags along the southern portion of Ocean Beach fronting the Great Highway. This work is a critical environmentally-friendly approach that is protecting public infrastructure and improving beach access while the Long-term Improvements Phase undergoes environmental review, completes design, and is ready for implementation. Potential annual sand replenishment activities in this Phase are informed by annual monitoring efforts required by CCSF’s Coastal Development Permit. As such, no sand backpass efforts took place during the 20/21 winter.
United States Army Corps of Engineers Beach Nourishment Phase
The ACOE Beach Nourishment Phase involved designing and implementing activities that moved dredged sand from the San Francisco Bay Main Ship Channel (approximately 260,000 cubic yards) that is currently placed offshore to Ocean Beach south of Sloat Boulevard. This work beneficially used the dredged sand to minimize storm damage and protect the beach, infrastructure, habitat, and recreational access to the beach. Implemented in partnership with the ACOE, this Phase works in conjunction with both the Short and Long-term Improvements Phases to protect South Ocean Beach. Design and environmental review for the ACOE Beach Nourishment Phase was completed and can be accessed here. Construction was completedin summer 2021.
Long-Term Improvements Phase
The Long-term Improvements Phase is the result of extensive planning and analysis work, (e.g., Ocean Beach Master Plan and Coastal Protection Measures and Management Strategy) which is captured in the completed Alternatives Analysis Report and the Conceptual Engineering Report. This phase of work is expected to involve the implementation of coastal management strategies that include managed retreat (i.e., recontouring the bluffs and removing the Great Highway between Sloat and Highway 35), removal of rubble and revetment rock from the beach and bluffs, continued beach nourishment, and installation of a low-profile (buried) wall to protect the Lake Merced Tunnel and associated assets (see figure at right, from 65% design). This work will not only protect vital public wastewater infrastructure, but will also improve access, recreation, and habitat at South Ocean Beach. The Long-term Improvements Phase is currently in the design and environmental review phase (the Notice of Preparation can be viewed here). The Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Ocean beach Climate Change Adaptation Project was released on December 8, 2021 and can be viewed here. The Final Environmental Impact Report is anticipated to be published in March 2023. Construction is expected to begin construction in late 2023 and last for 4 years.
Other Work in the Vicinity
Westside Pump Station Reliability Improvements
The Westside Pump Station Reliability Improvements Project is part of the Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP), a 20-year, multi-billion-dollar citywide investment required to upgrade the City's aging sewer system. This project, implemented by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, will construct improvements and modifications needed to ensure that the pump station is reliable and able to maintain water quality requirements. The objective of the project is to improve reliability of the Westside Pump Station to meet regulatory requirements by providing redundant electrical power service feeds, replacement of essential wastewater process mechanical and electrical equipment, and ventilation, plumbing and instrumentation and control improvements. The project includes site civil work, street curb ramp work, landscape and architectural facility work, structural cast-in-place concrete vaults, foundation and facility modification work, shoring work, construction of a new electrical building, pipeline replacement, corrosion protection and security improvements. Construction is expected from April 2021 – March 2024.
More information about the Westside Pump Station Reliability Improvements Project can be found here.
District 4 Mobility Study
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority conducted the District 4 Mobility Study to explore ways to increase the use of transit, walking and biking in the Outer Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods. The study included an evaluation of transportation and open space impacts and benefits of alternative concepts of the Great Highway from Sloat Boulevard to Lincoln Way. This component was conducted in partnership with the Recreation and Parks Department and SFMTA. The final reports for both the District 4 Mobility Study and the Great Highway Concepts Evaluation Report were completed in Summer 2021.
The District 4 Mobility Study is part of Sunset Forward, a collaboration between the Office of District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar, the San Francisco Planning Department, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, and the District 4 Youth and Families Network, a coalition of non-profit community based-organizations in the Sunset District. More information on the District 4 Mobility Study can be found here.
The D4 Mobility Study is distinct and separate from SF Rec Park, and SFMTA ongoing management and work to determine the use of the Great Highway in the near and medium term. For more on the current and near term status of the Great Highway go to SF Rec Park’s Great Highway website.
In April 2020, as part of the city’s COVID-19 response efforts, San Francisco temporarily repurposed the Upper Great Highway to be a car-free street that prioritizes families, people on bicycles and pedestrians. In mid-August 2021, the Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard was opened to vehicular traffic on Mondays at 6 a.m. through Fridays at 12 noon while being used as a car-free coastal promenade for pedestrians and bicycles from Fridays at 12 noon until Mondays at 6 a.m. On holidays, the Great Highway is also closed to vehicular traffic.
SF Rec Park and SFMTA continue to work to determine the mid and long-term future of the Great Highway. For more information on the Great Highway go to SF Rec Park’s Great Highway website. Additional information on traffic management can be found here.
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