Could "Thrashed" Ocean Beach Become a Blissful Playland?
Now if you're Los Angeles, you will see palm trees, basketball and volleyball courts, cafes, bars, galleries, ice cream parlors, and surf shops. It's paradise.
Go to San Francisco, and you will see Ocean Beach fronted with a four-lane highway and a graffiti covered seawall. There won't be bathrooms and you let the whole thing turn into a massive, post-apocalyptic bonfire pit.
"It's a little bit thrashed," acknowledges Ben Grant, a planner with the think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research. "Whether that's a lack of bathrooms, a seawall that's beat to hell, parking lots in rough shape and falling into the beach. To me that speaks to the fact there's no agency that looks at Ocean Beach as a place, that looks at creating an experience for visitors, or protects a natural resource."
Grant's organization has received a grant for more than $400,000 to devise a plan that will ultimately improve the beach. Called the Ocean Beach Master Plan project, the idea is to coordinate the various agencies responsible for the beach and hold them accountable so that the city's beachfront doesn't remain a wasteland.
SF Weekly attended a Jan. 15 workshop hosted by SPUR at the Zoo, where SF residents where invited to share ideas on how to improve the beach area. They offered free orange juice.
"Basically we're trying to make it more accessible, while putting in the amenities users need, whether it's bathrooms, places to get somewhere to eat, or access to and from transit," Grant said. "There are places where the Great Highway is hard to cross, and consists of a lot of asphalt. The connection between Golden Gate Park and the beach could be a better human landscape."
There's that. And then there's the fact the whole place is in danger of being deluged with shit.
At the SPUR presentation, we ran into our neighbor Stephen Ferrero, a civil engineer. He noted, as others have, that sea erosion is creeping awfully near to 68 million-gallon sewage tanks that run the length of the beach, inland from the sand under the Great Highway. A big state-of-the art sewage treatment plant is about 100 feet from the edge of the shore.
"The water will undermine the tank first. You ride out to the cliff., and you look at the pavement in the right lane going south. The full lane was intact 18 months ago," Ferrero said. "Now, the erosion has eaten into half the lane. If you lose 12 feet a year, and you're 100 feet away from the front door, you've got 10 years, 5 years, two big storms, and you're splitting hairs about whether you're protecting the tank, or the sewage treatment plant."
If it's true that the whole beach is doomed -- and it's probably not -- and if the federal government has any say -- perhaps it's time to party like it's 1999, and make the place a real play land.
Like, say, Santa Cruz. They've got two roller coasters, a log ride, and, like, 20 corn dog stands, and SF doesn''t even have a single bathroom.
Or Acapulco, where, wherever you go, you can order a drink.
Or Blackpool, England. They've got a replica of the Eiffel Tower, and we don't even have a snack bar.
What so special about Miami Beach that they get to have their beach lined with iconic landmarks such as the Fontainebleau Hotel?