The California Coastal Commission could make a decision about the future of Goleta Beach as early as May, and Santa Barbara County officials met with reporters on Monday to talk about the beach’s future.
The beach provides coastal access to about 1.5 million visitors each year and does not charge visitors for parking.
The commission is expected to meet May 13-15 in Santa Barbara and will likely make a decision on the beach during those meetings.
Officials say the 1,200 linear feet of rock revetment, which were installed in 2005 under an emergency approvals that have long since expired, have served to protect the park facilities, like parking lots, restaurants and underground utility lines from erosion, which has been significant after heavy storms.
The California Coastal Commission granted emergency permits on the condition that the county study other alternatives. Environmental groups have long lobbied for other approaches, including that of managed retreat, that remove the revetments and allow erosion to take place.
Last March, county supervisors voted unanimously to leave rock revetments in place after examining several alternatives.
In April 2014, the county submitted an application to the California Coastal Commission to leave in the revetment.
“This rock structure has done a superior job without causing damage to the beach,” said Renee Bahl, interim community services director.
The 22,000 square feet of rock protects 60 parking spaces offered for free, picnic areas and other amenities, she said.
The revetment has only come uncovered once in the last decade, and the water seldom gets as high as the rocks, Bahl said, which serve as the last line of defense.
Bahl said that certain seawalls, like those seen in Isla Vista and at Butterfly Beach, are in a different category than Goleta Beach and that the commission will have to look at the specifics of Goleta Beach instead of making comments about seawalls in general.
County Parks Deputy Director Paddy Langlands showed photos from after last March’s storm that left some of the rocks exposed, and said without them, “we would have lost all that sand and lost the parking lot,” he said.
One of the park’s restaurants had its windows blown out from the waves and the pier also suffered damage.
“Because I’m an optimist, I’m assuming approval,” she said, adding that if the revetments are approved, they’d then go to the county’s planning commission for coastal development permits.
If the commission denies the application, Bahl said the county supervisors would have to make a policy decision on what to do next.
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.