Pierpont Beach resident, city agree on moving sand
Work is expected to clear way for others, tooBy Kevin Clerici
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Jason Redmond / Star staff Dee Willingham of AAA Grinding & Trenching Inc. walks trough cleared sand dunes as a backhoe continues the removal. Ventura beach residents, the city and Coastal Commission officials reached a compromise on removal.
Ron Wilson got his ocean view back Tuesday a sight he was beginning to think he'd never see again.
The longtime resident along Ventura's Pierpont Beach had sought permission since February to move excessive sand buildup outside his property. He finally got a city permit last week and quickly arranged to rent two pieces of equipment at $95 an hour to move the sand and spread it on the beach.
"I'm tickled to death," said Wilson, whose glass-paned retaining wall outside his home buckled and shattered from the weight of the encroaching sand. "My view will finally be like it used to be, and that's all I ever wanted."
The city's willingness to issue a sand-moving permit, something it was reluctant to do this spring, could end a dispute that has triggered a volley of civil claims and threats of lawsuits.
Under an arrangement in the works between the city, state park officials and the California Coastal Commission, nine other homeowners facing similar sand buildups could receive the same option as Wilson did to relocate the sand at their own expense, City Engineer Rick Raives said.
Such a city permit costs about $1,000, city planning officials said.
An unseasonably mild winter has left a deluge of sand along the beach, and recent high winds have driven the sand dunes up against million-dollar properties and public stairways, in some cases presenting a safety hazard.
"The focus (among the agencies) is not on leveling the dunes or improving people's sight-lines," Raives said. "The focus has been on getting the sand away from the walls and perhaps rectifying an unsafe condition for those walking by."
Responding to residents' concerns, the City Council in June set aside $15,000 to tackle the sand issue. Raives' task was to "create a master permit" to allow residents most affected by the buildup to remove sand from their outside walls, he said.
Wilson paid an additional $1,500 to hire a biologist to meet a city condition that any relocated sand would not damage sensitive beach areas, he said. Raives said the master permit would relieve future applicants of that cost.
Raives recently walked the beach with state park and Coastal Commission officials. The agencies agreed on which properties needed the most immediate relief.
The prospect of other homeowners being allowed to move sand will "depend on how well it goes this first time," Raives said. "The Coastal Commission is going to be watching very closely."
For years, the city used mechanized equipment to periodically level heavy buildups of sand, particularly those near beach stairways and storm-water drains at the end of streets in the Pierpont neighborhood. But the Coastal Commission stripped that authority from the city in 1999, declaring the vegetative dunes as sensitive habitat.
In addition to the $15,000 for a short-term solution, the city has set aside $25,000 to hire an expert to study Ventura's coastline and find ways to reduce the mounting dunes in the future, such as through fencing, said Vicki Musgrove, a public works division manager.
"We are moving in the direction toward doing something more permanent," Musgrove said.
Wilson still has a claim against the city to recoup the costs of repairing his damaged retaining wall, likely to be several thousand dollars. But he praised city and state officials for ultimately agreeing to a "common sense" approach, and for backing off from an earlier requirement that he haul the sand to a designated site near Surfers Point.
"It's taken a long time, but I think my project will be a real benefit for others facing a similar problem," he said. "The sand, as we all know, is not going away."