Crown Beach set for restoration

Crown Beach set for restoration

Michele Ellson
Crown Beach

Robert W. Crown State Beach has been called “a great achievement of landscaping and engineering,” a manmade beach on San Francisco Bay that once hosted an amusement center known as the “Coney Island of the West” and was restored three decades ago for erosion control and public use.

Because it’s an artificial beach, though, it has no natural source for replenishing the sand that the Bay sucks away at a rate of 1 percent of the beach each year – and more than that during big storms, like ones the Island weathered in 1998, 2005 and 2006. Each year, beach crews must redistribute sand that waves pull from the bend at Westline and Shoreline drives and deposit at either end of the beach.

Erosion caused by a 2005 storm prompted the East Bay Regional Park District – which manages Crown Beach for the state and the city – to initiate efforts to restore the beach to its 1980s footprint. In September, the park district will begin a three-month, $5.6 million project that will spread 82,600 cubic yards of sand – about 20 percent of the beach’s 1980s footprint – across 8,000 linear feet of 9,000-foot-long beach.

The park district is hosting a community information day about the project from 9 a.m. to noon this coming Saturday, August 24 in the Crab Cove Visitor Center, 1252 McKay Avenue. At the event, parks staff will offer details about the project, answer questions and provide project plans, diagrams and historic photos for the public to view.

The three-month project is set to kick off in September.

The park district won approval – and $864,040 in federal funding – to place 20,600 cubic yards of sand on the beach – the amount sucked away by that 2005 storm – in 2006. Three years later, the state awarded the district $1.5 million to add another 62,000 cubic yards in order to restore the beach to its 1988 footprint. But the district struggled to win some federal approvals for the project.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency ultimately signed off on the project, in April, directing a total of $724,155 toward fixing the 2005 storm damage. The park district received an additional $300,000 in funds from the Dubai Star oil spill settlement (tar balls from the spill led the park district to shutter Crown Beach for several weeks).

The park district will contribute about $3 million to the project, and the remainder will be covered with $100,000 in disaster recovery funds.

In addition to mitigating erosion and preserving the beach for public use – an estimated 600,000 people visit each year, and the beach, which fronts on warm, shallow waters, is particularly popular with paddleboarders and wind surfers – the park district said the project will help protect eel grass, clapper rail, grunion and herring habitat. A 2009 study of the project’s potential environmental impacts said the project would extend the beach into the Bay by between 23 and 100 feet.

Instead of hauling in the sand via truck, the park district will pump in beach sand mixed with water from an offshore barge. According to a 2009 study, about 60 barge loads of sand will be needed to complete the project, which could put 3,000 to 6,000 cubic yards onto the beach each day.

The public will be able to continue accessing the beach during construction via sand fill or ramps that will be set up over the sand pipeline to allow visitors to walk on the beach safely, though some areas of the beach will be off-limits while work is in progress. Construction will take place during weekdays only.

The project is expected to be complete by December.

Additional information on the project is available on the park district’s website. The results of the 2009 study are here.


Submitted by Nancy (not verified) on Mon, Aug 19, 2013

Where is the sand coming from? Is it being dredged from the bottom of the bay, as when the island was augmented in the mid-50's?

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Mon, Aug 19, 2013

That's a great question, Nancy. I know the plan originally outlined in the environmental doc I've linked was to obtain it from one of the sand mining operations in SF Bay (the doc describes the operation as being 13 miles northwest of Alameda); I didn't hear back from the parks spokesperson or the contact for the project on Friday, but if I do, I will ask.