ENCINITAS (NEWS 8) – The Encinitas Planning Commission on Thursday will vote on the next phase of a contentious project meant to improve access to Beacon’s Beach.

The City of Encinitas said the bluff the trail runs down to Beacon’s Beach could soon become a danger because of erosion. The plan is to construct a concrete staircase that would eventually replace the trail.

The city estimates that about 400,000 people or more visit Beacon's Beach, but with conditions getting worse and worse, the city hopes the project will help make access safer for beach goers.

Some residents, however, believe the city needs to go back to the drawing board. Ari Marsh is one of the lead organizers of the opposing group Preserve Beacons. Marsh’s main concern is the city bypassing CEQA requirements of an environmental impact study. “That helps us regulate what gets developed on our coast, on our bluffs and on our beaches. We just don’t really think that the current design and stair case that the city has created at this point fits Beacons.”

According to the city’s planning commission, the project is exempt because the staircase is an emergency repair. In a statement to News 8, a City of Encinitas spokesperson said:

The Beacon's Beach access and parking lot is an important asset to provide safe access to the beach. The total attendance for the Beacon's Beach was documented in 2017 at 474,974 people.  The beach is accessed by a meandering switchback trail from the existing parking lot to the beach below. 
A landslide encompasses virtually all of the bluff below the Beacon's Beach parking lot.  The current site conditions have become increasingly more precarious with further decreased geologic stability as a result of erosion and landslide movements.  Natural, ongoing coastal erosion and the seismic setting of the site present risks that could trigger instability in the short term.
The current landslide conditions and over steepened upper bluff present a danger that demands immediate action to prevent damage to vehicles and people using the beach facilities, or loss of public beach access.  The proposed parking lot relocation and staircase improvements will maintain safe public access to Beacon's Beach recreational area.

Marsh said she wants the city to consider a more inclusive alternative. “We want to be involved in the process.”

The environmental group Surfrider San Diego supports the plan proposed by the City of Encinitas.

The city will vote on Thursday on the next step.

A letter from the Surfrider Foundation: