4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Pros and cons of berms in Ocean Beach

Shelter for homeless, backwash for surfers – do they prevent flooding?

"The kids get all excited and bring their boogie boards.”
"The kids get all excited and bring their boogie boards.”

The sand berms are up in Ocean Beach. For some it signals the beginning of winter when kids can be seen boarding down the dunes. Others aren’t fans of the windswept sand build-up and wonder if the berms would be useful in the event they are truly needed.

“They bulldoze the sand up from close to the water line. This causes the beach bank to steepen while creating a bad backwash."

“We love them. The kids get all excited about the sand berms, and bring their boogie boards,” Pat Groves told me as his two sons, aged 7 and 9, were enjoying berm. “A lot of times they bring their monster trucks cars to make trails going down the berm…yeah we have a ball, we look forward to the berms and look forward to them going away in the summer time.”

George Barnes, who has lived in Ocean Beach for 51-years, wonders if the berms are worth it.

Nov. 16, 2015. Wind blew the top of berm off. Car stuck in the sand.

“One question I have, is did the city do a study at all to find out if this is actually worth doing or do they just put it up? And can they show anywhere is the history of Ocean Beach that the homes have been damaged in any way, let alone severely damaged by waves? I don’t think they can [be damaged],” he opined. “And personally, I have put out dozens of fires over the years on the west side of the berm where people cannot be seen, they leave broken glass and hot coals. During wind events, sand is blown off the tops of the berms into the parking lots and the grassy areas, covering them with a thick layer of sand that the city has to clean up,” he said.

“I think it causes more problems than it’s worth,” one woman told me. “Especially when it’s windy and the sand is blown all over the lawn, killing it. It also provides a great hiding spot for the travelers camping illegally on the beachside.”

Sand berms are commonly used to prevent tidal surges from damaging homes and to stop seawater from flooding low-lying areas.

“I’ve seen waves rush up to about two-thirds of the way before the berm,” Barnes says. “But I’ve never seen any waves come in and wash out Saratoga Park, or wash out the houses.”

Large storms do cause flooding along Abbott Street and Santa Monica Ave, adjacent to Saratoga Park. However, it’s not caused by the waves. According to a 2011 Coastal Commission report, "during heavy rain events the western end of Saratoga Avenue has a tendency to flood due to inadequate storm drains."

Lifeguards I spoke to told me they have never seen the berm breached by a wave.

“We had at least two incidents last winter,” one of the guys told me. "When it was high tide I watched it come up here into the lot. But it actually went between the berms, not over it. When this happens we don’t let anybody on the beach side because the water will come all the way up…that’s the only time I’ve seen it come through, but no, it hasn’t breached the berm. I know the one [wave] that came up and over the seawall last year swept a woman into the street. We were dealing with our own stuff over here and didn’t realize it came up over there.”

“In the kind of event, like the hundred-year storm that would heavily damage the beach front property, the berm is worthless. It would blow right through it." Barnes adds.

A 2015 article reports that the berm in Ocean Beach "can be completely eroded by wave attack without run-up ever reaching the original (un-eroded) crest level…Currently, berms are located on or near the highest portion of the beach…Elevating the berm crest alone would likely not provide sufficient protection."

For surfers, the berms also impact the quality of the surf.

“They bulldoze the sand up from close to the water line,” Barnes tells me. “This causes the beach bank to steepen while creating a bad backwash. The bank gets really steep, and the waves, the slope of the beach, the waves will come in and rebound off impacting the quality of the surf. Also the various currents that shape the sand bars are altered.”

Dan Daneri, city of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department, explains the city's position:

“Generally the berms are placed in areas without seawalls and that need protection from high winter storm surf and tidal surges. In addition to providing storm protection the berms help retain sand behind them.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

San Diego fishing life, dirty work, tools of the trade

The heady job of a waiter, nurses on the run, who brings you your candy
Next Article

The floss silk tree and tarantula spiders

Natural San Diego, October 19-25
"The kids get all excited and bring their boogie boards.”
"The kids get all excited and bring their boogie boards.”

The sand berms are up in Ocean Beach. For some it signals the beginning of winter when kids can be seen boarding down the dunes. Others aren’t fans of the windswept sand build-up and wonder if the berms would be useful in the event they are truly needed.

“They bulldoze the sand up from close to the water line. This causes the beach bank to steepen while creating a bad backwash."

“We love them. The kids get all excited about the sand berms, and bring their boogie boards,” Pat Groves told me as his two sons, aged 7 and 9, were enjoying berm. “A lot of times they bring their monster trucks cars to make trails going down the berm…yeah we have a ball, we look forward to the berms and look forward to them going away in the summer time.”

George Barnes, who has lived in Ocean Beach for 51-years, wonders if the berms are worth it.

Nov. 16, 2015. Wind blew the top of berm off. Car stuck in the sand.

“One question I have, is did the city do a study at all to find out if this is actually worth doing or do they just put it up? And can they show anywhere is the history of Ocean Beach that the homes have been damaged in any way, let alone severely damaged by waves? I don’t think they can [be damaged],” he opined. “And personally, I have put out dozens of fires over the years on the west side of the berm where people cannot be seen, they leave broken glass and hot coals. During wind events, sand is blown off the tops of the berms into the parking lots and the grassy areas, covering them with a thick layer of sand that the city has to clean up,” he said.

“I think it causes more problems than it’s worth,” one woman told me. “Especially when it’s windy and the sand is blown all over the lawn, killing it. It also provides a great hiding spot for the travelers camping illegally on the beachside.”

Sand berms are commonly used to prevent tidal surges from damaging homes and to stop seawater from flooding low-lying areas.

“I’ve seen waves rush up to about two-thirds of the way before the berm,” Barnes says. “But I’ve never seen any waves come in and wash out Saratoga Park, or wash out the houses.”

Large storms do cause flooding along Abbott Street and Santa Monica Ave, adjacent to Saratoga Park. However, it’s not caused by the waves. According to a 2011 Coastal Commission report, "during heavy rain events the western end of Saratoga Avenue has a tendency to flood due to inadequate storm drains."

Lifeguards I spoke to told me they have never seen the berm breached by a wave.

“We had at least two incidents last winter,” one of the guys told me. "When it was high tide I watched it come up here into the lot. But it actually went between the berms, not over it. When this happens we don’t let anybody on the beach side because the water will come all the way up…that’s the only time I’ve seen it come through, but no, it hasn’t breached the berm. I know the one [wave] that came up and over the seawall last year swept a woman into the street. We were dealing with our own stuff over here and didn’t realize it came up over there.”

“In the kind of event, like the hundred-year storm that would heavily damage the beach front property, the berm is worthless. It would blow right through it." Barnes adds.

A 2015 article reports that the berm in Ocean Beach "can be completely eroded by wave attack without run-up ever reaching the original (un-eroded) crest level…Currently, berms are located on or near the highest portion of the beach…Elevating the berm crest alone would likely not provide sufficient protection."

For surfers, the berms also impact the quality of the surf.

“They bulldoze the sand up from close to the water line,” Barnes tells me. “This causes the beach bank to steepen while creating a bad backwash. The bank gets really steep, and the waves, the slope of the beach, the waves will come in and rebound off impacting the quality of the surf. Also the various currents that shape the sand bars are altered.”

Dan Daneri, city of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department, explains the city's position:

“Generally the berms are placed in areas without seawalls and that need protection from high winter storm surf and tidal surges. In addition to providing storm protection the berms help retain sand behind them.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Spanish hacienda at the southern edge of La Jolla

This Bird Rock estate features “an exceedingly rare oceanfront pool overlooking the surf.”
Next Article

Grant's Market becomes Grant's Coffee Room

South Park neighborhood mainstay shifts focus from market to all day hangout
Comments
1

When they built those condos on the saratoga with the underground garage, they determined it was not at risk of being flooded from wave action or sea level rise. Otherwise they wouldn't have been able to build it. Unfortunately for them they didn't account for the storm drains that don't work.

Nov. 20, 2019

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close