After a group of concerned citizens prompted the Long Beach City Council to halt and re-examine the $5.8M rehab of the bluff on April 29, the Council voted to continue the project as it was originally intended.
Last night, City Staff presented various alternatives following raised eyebrows about how the project was proceeding aesthetically. Those possibilities unveiled included: 1) continue the project as is; 2) take part in one of two biotechnical alternatives (presented separately as Options 2 and 3); or 3) perform a major regrading of the slope which will permit larger, more mature plants that will grow faster and create a more lush environment.
City Staff remained adamant in protecting the project as is, citing examples in Dana Point and Agoura Hills as proof that what Long Beach sees now is now what they will get; a point later seconded by Mayor Robert Garcia and 3rd District Councilmember Suzie Price. Additionally, three independent engineers confirmed that the use of shotcrete—the method described by one dissenter as “prison-esque” and part of the original project—is an appropriate solution for the concerns at hand. Of course, this isn’t to mention cost-effectiveness: Option 1 will cost about $1.32M, while Options 2/3 and 4 sit at lofty budgets between $4.35M and $7.75M.
Fearful that City Staff would recommend the cheaper option, the group which originally caused the project to be halted spoke to City Council to do what they felt was is right: properly rehabilitate the bluff—not cut corners.
“We had hoped our City Council would vote to restore the remaining bluffs and not complete the project with the cheapest alternative,” said Gordana Kajer, leader of the homegrown campaign to restore the bluff, following the meeting. “This could have been a community driven project that… beautifies the bluffs with native vegetation and gives residents what they wanted back in 2000 when this plan was started.”
While a master plan began in 2000 in regard to how address bluff erosion, particularly concerns regarding sidewalk damage and the limitation of public access, formal rehabilitation began in 2007 along the 12th Place bluff. Additional studies were conducted in 2009 and 2010, eventually leading to the 5th and 7th Place erosion improvements. This then led to the point where we’re at: the formal phases of the current project. However, many residents became concerned as construction began to show just what the bluff would look like: a sprayed concrete mess, or what Seamus Innes of the Surfrider Foundation called “prison-esque” at the April 29 meeting.
Noting the work of Dr. David Revell of Environmental Science Associates in San Francisco—who also appeared at the special meeting April 29 with a letter in hand dissenting against the use of shotcrete—Kajer and crew noted that the shotcrete is used for bluffs which receive multiple wave crashes against its facade. Our bluff is set back from the coastline, opening up possibilities that include vegetation-based geotextile erosion control that, after a few years of growth, would have the bluff filled with plants instead of a concrete slope—an option deeply desired, despite the higher price tag, by some community members.
However, City Staff presented evidence that shotcrete was not only longer lasting but far more cost effective—all in a time when tideland funds are shrinking since oil remains a volatile commodity. (The Tidelands Operating Fund is largely funded through the City’s oil properties.)