This master plan focuses on managing and protecting Ocean Beach, a national park and recreational destination as well as the site of major infrastructure and a flagstone of the San Francisco landscape.

Why does this project matter?

Ocean Beach’s traditional coastal management approach has relied on seawalls and hard structures, significantly impacting the beach and its users. The Ocean Beach Master Plan represents a first-of-its-kind effort to address and plan for long-term adaptations in response to sea-level rise and climate change.

What is ESA doing to help?

ESA collaborated with the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) to develop an extensive interagency and public process for Ocean Beach, resulting in a comprehensive vision to address sea-level rise, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystems, and improve public access.

Our team provided technical analysis and guidance related to coastal dynamics, management, and engineering, including analysis and assessment of the potential impacts of sea-level rise, beach nourishment, armoring, and retreat using a scenario-based planning methodology. This included supporting public meetings and workshops, often presenting an analyses directly to the community and stakeholders. We projected sea-level rise for the identified timeframe, consistent with state guidance, and based on extreme wave runup and overtopping analyses, estimated the approximate extents of coastal erosion and flood hazard zones. We developed several management scenarios that considered different degrees of intervention—from a focus on protecting infrastructure using seawalls and structures, to ecosystem-based concepts incorporating retreat and restoration. Ultimately, a hybrid approach was selected, presented, and recommended.

ESA continue to assist SPUR in advancing the selected approach. Our team developed a vulnerability assessment and adaptation feasibility study for implementing portions of the master plan that would protect the Lake Merced Transport tunnel, allowing beach restoration efforts to remove asphalt, concrete, and rock debris that are currently protecting the bluff. Working in collaboration with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and coordinating with the National Park Service, our team is assessing the limits and likelihood of short- and long-term erosion, reviewing available geotechnical information, evaluating the structural integrity of the tunnel under different soil conditions, and analyzing the engineering feasibility of constructing a low-profile wall protection device.

ESA developed an immediate-term coastal management plan that outlines three low-risk operations that may be used to protect portions of threatened bluff in the event of an emergency. The results from these studies inform a draft interagency management agreement that will be used to identify the responsible parties, their roles, the phasing of implementation, and the groundwork for completing regulatory compliance and environmental review.


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Testimonials icon

"The Ocean Beach Master Plan identifies actions that will mitigate the effects of sea-level rise through the end of the 21st century while maintaining infrastructure, recreation, and ecology services for the four-mile shore shared by San Francisco and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area."

Bob Battalio, , ESA Project Manager



Client San Francisco Planning + Urban Resarch (SPUR) Association

Location San Francisco, CA


2013 Environmental Excellence Award in Planning Integration, National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP)

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