Wednesday, July 29, 2009

LA TIMES: Study offers 5 options to reshape Long Beach’s breakwater

City leaders hope to persuade the Army Corps of Engineers to reconfigure the World War II-era structure. The result, they hope, will be cleaner water, bigger waves and more tourists.

By Louis Sahagun, July 24, 2009

Just off downtown Long Beach, where freighters queue up to unload much of the nation’s imported goods, a long wall of rock rises from the waves, encrusted with mussels and crawling with crabs.


Today, nearly two decades after the Navy and its ships pulled out of the area, critics contend that the stony barricade is the reason the city's now surf-less beaches are among the least popular and most polluted in the region.

Long Beach officials Thursday released the results of a study designed to attract congressional support for a controversial proposal to reconfigure the breakwater to create bigger waves, cleaner water and beaches, and more surf tourism.

The city could gain $52 million a year in local spending -- and $7 million annually in taxes and fees, the study found.

Officials said the project will be carried out only if it can overcome daunting challenges. Major concerns include how altering the breakwater would affect navigation into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the offshore loading of weaponry onto Navy ships.


Supporters of the proposal said the change would revive the city’s historic seaside allure.

U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) said it was her “hope and goal” to see the project completed within a decade.

“All the pieces are coming together,” she said. “We are excited about the prospect of returning waves to Long Beach, but also committed to ensuring that any such project protects homes and the economic vitality of the largest port complex in the United States.

“If it is determined that we can do those two things and return the waves,” she said, “then let the waters roll. We’re ready.”

Ed Hendricks, 84, vice chairman of Long Beach Surfrider, an environmental group, agreed.

“But in the meantime, we have a big dead sea out there behind the breakwater that’s so dirty I wouldn’t stick a toe in it,” he said.


Complete removal of the breakwater is not recommended in the study. Instead, it offers five options, including three that would reconfigure the breakwater. They range in cost from about $10 million to $310 million…


Given the numerous competing pros and cons, there's a reason this issue has been so hotly contested for so unbelievably long.

However, my viewpoint is that Long Beach becoming a "surf town" carries positives that more than outweigh the potential downsides. Thoughts?


  1. Well, there is more to being a "surf town" than just having surf. I remember when Main St. in Huntington Beach was a spot you DIDN'T want to be. Now, I still don't want to be there, but it is for an entirely different reason. :)

    Going from memory (since I am an outsider), and it may not be good, but where is the focus of the "surf city" going to be? I would imagine it would have to be around the Belmont Pier, right? I honestly have no idea.

    I am looking at the shoreline from Shoreline Village down the 75th Place and it looks ALL residential, except for the area around the pool.

    Am I wrong?

    (and they would have to ensure that a winter storm combined with astronomical high tides wouldn't wipe out the homes south of 55th place)

    I would be all for a "surf city" though.

  2. Carl,

    "Well, there is more to being a 'surf town' than just having surf."

    Very true. Point well taken.

    I would think the "surf city" focus would be from the pier all the way up to where Alamitos Beach meets the Shoreline area. Who knows?

    As far as the breakers protecting coastal homes, HB, NB, Laguna Beach residents don't seem terribly worried about their lack of protection. Plus if there are astronomical, 100-year-storm high tides, I seriously doubt a pile of rocks is going to do much.

    Kind of like living on a fault line (I had a REALLY bad dream about an earthquake last night!)--there's only so much you can do to protect yourself.

    However, I still get how that would be a big concern--and from what I gather it's one of the primary issues.

    I love Long Beach so much, but in my heart I know it's nowhere near its potential as a destination city. Nice beaches attracting tourism dollars sure could help.

  3. Damn. Totally forgot about Newport and Laguna. (Counter Point taken!)

    As far as Huntington, the only really exposed area are Surfside/Sunset as the rest of the PCH residences are set back from the beach and on the other side of PCH. But those residents knew the risk going in! The ones in long beach probably assumed that the breakwater would be there forever. Baggin' sand looks tough!!

    Call me cynical, but I also think that those residents could have some sway with the city council.

    so you're on the Newport/Inglewood fault too? :) Maybe that will take care of the breakwater!!!

    Personally, I hate the breakwater. I also wish they'd sink those damn oil islands.

    I agree that Long Beach could be more of destination city, and I would like to see it.

  4. Redondo@BroadwayWednesday, July 29, 2009

    The results of the study can be found on the city of Long Beach web page (which for some reason I am unable to paste here).

    To summarize, though: most of surf that might result from any changes would be from Bluff Park north to Downtown.

  5. Just as long as it doesn't affect the fine kitesurfing many of us currently enjoy at Belmont. Most of the time it has the most consistent winds in SoCal. A few more waves would be welcome, but may make it tougher to keep it open for us kitesurfers.

  6. Take a look at an overhead of LB, and consider the wave shadows caused by Catalina, the oil islands, the port infrastructure, and then consider the direction of prevailing winds. I think the prospects for decent surfing waves in the LBC are remote. You'd get larger waves than we see today, but nothing rivaling Seal and Huntington next door.

  7. The waves don't have to be good enough just for surfing. Water that is less stagnant than it is now would add to LB being more of a "surf" city.

  8. This is seriously the answer to all of Long Beach's problems.... from the lack of customers for the retail business in downtown, to the lack of money and status of the majority of residents.

    Anybody with a brain would wonder why much of Long Beach is such a beautiful city, yet so ghetto and so much of a terd.

    Put the surf into the beach, and you'd instantly raise everything (inculding home values).

    I see awesome restaraunts, a shoreline area catering to great crowds, businesses prospering, property values going sky high (picture Venice Beach), and the entire class of the population changing, from something similar to Compton, into something similar to Manhattan Beach.

    For those of us here now, we could buy our condo or house, and literally wait for the tide to come in.

    How sweet it would be.....

  9. Oh and Carl, if you look close through a telescope at night, you can see tiny people working on those islands.

    Could they be Oompa Loompas???

    Time may some day tell...

  10. Mayor Bob send a summary and the presentation in the email his office sends out. Pretty nice read.

    Two things I found interesting:

    1) If I understood correctly these findings were result of a fact finding study in which only previously conducted research was included. That is, there was no new research done at this stage. If this to move forward then new research would be conducted which could come to different conclusions.

    2) For all options considered the wave height changes would be from 0 to 4 times larger than we currently have. How big are the waves now? 4 times bigger don't seem big enough to be a good surf sport.

    I'm relatively new to LB and I had a conversation with a long time resident who said this comes up every couple of years and never goes anywhere. What do you guys say, is it different this time or will my hopes just be dashed.

    I live in walking distance to the beach and I drive to OC to surf and hang out at the beach. I would love to have a "real" beach to go to.


  11. "I'm relatively new to LB and I had a conversation with a long time resident who said this comes up every couple of years and never goes anywhere. What do you guys say, is it different this time or will my hopes just be dashed."

    I agree with the long time resident with respect to removing the breakwater (it has been a pipe dream for decades for some), but the trash has really gotten out of hand over the last 10-15 years, and I wouldn't be surprised if something is done to alleviate that.

  12. I agree. This comes up every few years and then goes nowhere. I'll believe it when I see it.

    HOWEVER, I wonder if the doodie-rific economic situation might provide the impetus to finally get it done. It sure beats selling city buildings.

  13. I'm for it... any revenues generated by the positive impact can help Laura Richardson stave off foreclosures...