SACRAMENTO — Today, AB 66, Assemblymember Boerner Horvath’s bill to initiate the early stages of developing an early warning notification system for California’s coastal bluff collapses, passed the Assembly on a unanimous, bipartisan vote.
With fatalities, injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage just in the last few years, bluff collapses are a constant threat to beachgoers and coastal neighborhoods throughout California. AB 66 would task the Scripps Institution of Oceanography with expanding the science of coastal erosion with the goal of identifying key indicators for when a bluff is likely to fail.
“We need to take action to keep folks safe and prepare coastal communities for rising seas, and science can help us get there,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “Experts know what drives these collapses in the long run, but we need more research to predict day-to-day hazards along our coast. This bill is a necessary first step toward saving lives, and I’m pleased to see it move forward with such strong bipartisan support.”
In August of 2019, Anne Clave, Julie Davis, and Elizabeth Cox tragically passed away after a 30-by-25 heavy sandstone chunk broke loose and fell onto the three women who were sunbathing at Grandview Beach in Encinitas. In February of that same year, a San Francisco woman was fatally trapped after a similar collapse occurred at Fort Funston, burying her under tons of dirt.
“The research this bill will fund is essential for coastal management and public safety,” said Lauren Cullum from the Sierra Club of California, a supporter of the bill. “This work will lead to further understandings of the processes that cause cliff failures, enhancing California’s ability to mitigate the impacts of intensifying climate change in communities up and down the coast. The Sierra Club is proud to support this important legislation.”
While the problem exists throughout the state, the threat is especially acute in coastal North San Diego County, where actively eroding bluffs cover approximately 80% of the coastline. The collapses are becoming increasingly common with the impacts of rising seas, with scientists forecasting erosion at more than twice the historical rate by 2100. A late-April incident at San Elijo State Beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea led authorities to issue warnings for beachgoers, and an early-March collapse in Del Mar put the economically critical LOSSAN rail line once again in jeopardy of being severed.
“Surfrider recognizes the urgent need to monitor and better understand coastal dynamics along the California coast,” said Jennifer Savage of the Surfrider Foundation, a supporter of the bill. “These geological processes affect public safety, beach width, and development patterns — particularly in Northern San Diego County. As sea level rise continues to accelerate, we need the research this bill will fund to develop nature-based systems that can safeguard public enjoyment of the coastline.”
The bill now moves on to the Senate for their consideration.