Does the Wet Suit You


High Tides

By J.J. Gasparotti

The city’s upcoming rethink of Main Beach Park is an opportunity to address the predicted effects of climate warming and sea level rise on the park and that part of town. We should also coordinate with redevelopment of the adjoining Hotel Laguna and the Central Bluffs. We’ll be remiss if we don’t.

The public park improvements and the adjacent private development should have economic lives well into when we’ll be experiencing the effects of climate change. Sea level rise is slated to be at least 3 feet and maybe as much as 10 feet in that time.

This rise will have a profound effect on the busiest intersection in Laguna. Only God knows how much traffic squeezes through the intersection of Coast Highway and Broadway on a busy day.

Imagine this intersection regularly underwater. For those wishing for a tourist-free Laguna, this is a dream come true. For all the rest of us, it’s a real nightmare. We’re already seeing this flooding happen. King Tide surf surges and increasingly frequent 100-year storm flooding have all put the mud stains on the wall.

This vital intersection of two highways will need to be protected or moved. All downtown Laguna will need to be protected or moved. Main Beach Park is the only thing between downtown and the Pacific Ocean. It’s the only place we can build shoreline protective devices that could work.

Maybe our park improvements could be a win, win, and win. We could rebuild the park so it protects us from King Tide events, facilitates floodwater flow to the ocean, and creates an enhanced recreational experience for the coastal resource-using public. That is if the California Coastal Commission lets us do a thing.

It doesn’t seem like they’re looking at protecting existing development as the way to go. Their plan for coping with sea level rise is managed retreat. Now being touted as, “Coastal Hazard Resilience Planning in California.”

This is a conservationist’s dog whistle for, “Tomorrow’s walkable public beach will be the rubble of your oceanfront homes, bluff top apartments, important infrastructure, or any other property that gets in the way of nature.”

Just ask the folks down in Del Mar. They’re saying managed retreat won’t work for Del Mar and the commission isn’t buying it. The Coastal Commission isn’t our friend. We’re going to need a sophisticated plan and some powerful friends to help us address the effects of climate change and sea level rise on downtown with improvements in the redevelopment of Main Beach Park.


J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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