In an effort to protect 60 homes in the Niguel Shores Community and prevent the further disappearance of the coastline, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to approve repairs to a revetment at Strand Beach during its Oct. 13 meeting.

The repairs aim to shore up a bluff at risk of land sliding, atop which the Niguel Shores Community was built. As part of the approval, OC Parks committed to repairing stairs and ramps leading down to Strand Beach.

The gated community was built in the 1960s on an “ancient landslide,” thought to be stabilized. According to a commission staff report, the existing revetment was built in 1969 during the construction of the Niguel Shores housing development “to address geological concerns,” and protects roughly 1,250 feet of shoreline in front of the community.

The landslide was reactivated in 1977, requiring reconstruction of the buttress, or support fill, behind the revetment.

The Coastal Commission issued an emergency coastal development permit to rebuild the revetment following El Niño storms, which damaged the revetment in 1983.

The commission denied the county’s proposed repairs and maintenance in 2012, and its revised proposal in 2020 as the plans had “not been designed to eliminate or mitigate (the revetment’s) adverse impacts on local shoreline sand supply, public access or recreational opportunities.”

As part of the county’s latest request for a permit for repairs and maintenance, OC Parks proposes public access improvements to stairs and ramps, installation of new signage, public access study and monitoring of the beach in addition to restacking the rock revetment.

CCC staff noted that the county’s current proposal is the “least environmentally damaging alternative available given the history and circumstances of this specific case.”

To repair the rock revetment, OC Parks plans to retrieve and restack dislodged stones and import up to 1,000 tons of additional, slightly larger rock. OC Parks will not increase the size of the revetment with the repairs.

The revetment is critical for ensuring the stability of the landslide area, Natalia Gaerlan, manager of OC Parks Planning and Design Division, said.

“Without effective shoreline protection at the site, stabilization system will be susceptible to damage and destabilization from wave attack,” Gaerlan continued.

The project will also include repairs to deteriorating stairs at the north end of the beach and access ramps on both the north and south ends of the beach.

As part of the CCC’s approval, OC Parks is required to run a three-year shore zone monitoring program to collect data on beach trends and fluctuations related to annual shoreline changes.

Under the program, the county will “monitor and identify damage or changes to the revetment such that repair and maintenance is completed in a timely manner to avoid further encroachment of the revetment on the beach,” according to the CCC staff report.

The county will collect data on how the shoreline is affected by sea level rise, storms and “seasonal and annual environmental forces,” Gaerlan said.

Coastal Commission Chair Donne Brownsey noted that the county’s monitoring program would be vital information to help shore up other pocket beaches—isolated beaches formed between two headlands.

“That information is going to be so critical in terms of what’s happening with those beaches, in particular this beach,” Brownsey said. “So, if there’s negative beach consequences, we would want to know that.”

OC Parks first report on shore zone damage and changes is due June 2023.