Beacon’s Beach Access Project

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Update  July 20, 2018 San Diego CBS 8 reports  After a heated debate, the Encinitas Planning Commission on Thursday voted against a Beacon’s Beach access staircase design.

CBS News 8 – San Diego, CA News Station – KFMB Channel 8

The Encinitas Planning Commission on Thursday faced a barrage of opposition when faced with the task of voting on the design of the plan.

Speaking in favor of the project was the coastal preservation group, the Surfrider Foundation. “The parking lot is failing. There is a concern for safety and we want to make sure we keep that access for people to enjoy,” said Julia Chunn-Heer, with the Surfrider Foundation.

Many residents, however, pleaded for the City of Encinitas to instead spend more resources on preserving the bluff and the Switch Back Trail.

Update  July 19, 2018 Even Surfer Magazine enters the fray. Many local surfers and beachgoers feel Beacons’ switchback trail is a historic landmark that should be preserved and are petitioning the city for alternatives to the proposed plan. Locals want to ensure safe beach access while keeping the area as natural as possible. Locals also feel that if a staircase must be constructed to ensure safe beach access, then it should be out of wood and match the topography of the coastal bluff.

Update  July 18, 2018 According to CBS News 8 – The City of Encinitas estimates that 400,000 trips occur annually up and down your favorite path.

CBS News 8 – San Diego, CA News Station – KFMB Channel 8

The city estimates that about 400,000 people or more visit Beacon’s Beach, but with conditions getting worse and worse, the city hopes the project will help make access safer for beach goers.

Some residents, however, believe the city needs to go back to the drawing board. Ari Marsh is one of the lead organizers of the opposing group Preserve Beacons. Marsh’s main concern is the city bypassing CEQA requirements of an environmental impact study. “That helps us regulate what gets developed on our coast, on our bluffs and on our beaches. We just don’t really think that the current design and stair case that the city has created at this point fits Beacons.”


This is from the City of Encinitas

Beacon’s Beach Access Project

Project Overview

(Remember When ‘Keep Leucadia Funky’ was the cry?)

This project involves improvements to the parking lot and beach access from Neptune Avenue to Beacon’s Beach to mitigate the impacts of the area landslide.

Beacon’s Beach bluff, parking lot, and access trail have been subject to landslides throughout the past several decades. These land movements have impacted beach access safety and threaten the public parking lot stability. This project proposes a new beach access stairway connecting a series of pier-supported landings down the face of the bluff.   The design of the relocated parking lot will attempt to minimize the loss of parking spaces and the preferred configuration will allow for vehicles to exit to W. Leucadia Blvd.  The current parking lot configuration accommodates 25 spaces within the parking lot.  The reconstructed lot may accommodate approximately 16 parking spaces, with the actual number to be determined during design.  The current switchback trail is proposed to be maintained in place.  The project may include additional amenities currently under consideration, such as a permanent location for a lifeguard tower to be placed, a shower at the beach, and a water fountain.

Project implementation is dependent upon approval by the California Coastal Commission (CCC), agreement with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, which owns the beach, and review by regional agencies such as the Surfrider Foundation.


The project area is at risk of landslide, which could be reactivated by such hazards as earthquake, wave uprush from heavy storm activity and sea level rise, and winter storm damage.  Landslides have occurred in this area several times in the past. The landslide encompasses virtually all of the coastal bluff below the parking lot down to the beach, including the public parking and public access.

Currently, the landslide is only marginally stable, with site conditions becoming increasingly more precarious with further decreased geologic stability.  Ongoing coastal erosion and the seismic setting of the site present risks that could trigger instability in the short term. Minor earthquake shaking is believed to be a likely landslide failure trigger.

A landslide will affect the ability to access the beach from the top of bluff at Neptune Avenue.  This project aims to provide ongoing beach parking and access.


The project’s planning and design budget is $750,000.  Construction is anticipated to cost on the order of $3.5M.


The City Council initiated the preliminary engineering and environmental phase for this project in August, 2017.

  • 50% Design Plans: June 28, 2018
  • Citizen Participation Meeting: June 28, 2018
  • Citizen Participation Report provided to participants- July 10, 2018
  • Planning Commission Meeting for Design Review Permit: July 19, 2018
  • Approval sought from interested agencies and CCC: October, 2018
  • Construction beginning: November, 2018

Important Documents

CEQA Determination
Draft Notice of Exemption
CEQA Landslide Assessment  – July 5, 2018
CEQA Memoradum – July 5, 2018

Draft Project Plans 
Project Plans – June 28, 2018
Interim Parking Plan
Project Renderings – July 12, 2018

Geotechnical Reports and Assessments- Various Dates
CEQA Landslide Assessment  – July 5, 2018
CEQA Memoradum – July 5, 2018
Supplemental Geotechnical Report – May 30, 2018
Project Alternatives That Were Considered – August 16, 2017
Geologic Update – June 15, 2017
CCC Responses – February 11, 2016
Beacon’s Alternative 4C Slope Rebuilding Soil Cement Buttress – September 4, 2015
Soil Cement Memorandum – August 28, 2015
Geotechnical Update – November 21, 2014
Geotechnical Investigation Beacon’s Beach Access – April 17, 2003   Part 1   Part 2
Beacon’s Geotechnical Feasibility Study – September 21, 1990

City Council Meetings
August 16, 2017 City Council Meeting Video and Agenda Report
August 30, 2017 City Council Meeting Video and Agenda Report

Citizen Participation Program
Notice of Citizen Participation Program (CPP) Meeting – June 28, 2018
CPP  – PowerPoint Presentation – June 28, 2018
CPP draft whiteboard comments
CPP meeting comment cards (transcribed)
Submitted emails
Beacon’s Beach Staircase Plan and Proposal – prepared by Ari Marsh
Final CPP Report with attachments  July 12, 2018

Contact Us

For questions or concerns about the project, please contact the Project Manager by phone or email:

Stephanie Kellar, Project Manager

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