San Francisco PUC Redundancy Infrastructure


March 1, 2018

The City and County of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is proposing to construct new above-ground and subsurface redundancy wastewater infrastructure within a sea level rise and coastal hazard flood zone on the corner of the Great Highway and Sloat Boulevard fronting south Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

SFPUC claims this new development is necessary to improve the reliability of its existing Westside Pump Station and staff recommends approval of the project.

The existing Pump Station is located just inland of South Ocean Beach, with existing above-ground Pump Station infrastructure located between 100 and 200 feet from the bluff top edge above the beach. The SFPUC proposes to locate the new subsurface infrastructure about 25 feet seaward of most existing infrastructure. This area is protected against erosion through ongoing sand and sandbag placement and temporarily authorized riprap in this area. The SFPUC is required by a prior permit to develop and implement a long-term managed retreat solution to the erosion threat to the Great Highway and related SFPUC infrastructure in this area (including the SFPUC’s Oceanside Treatment Plant and the Lake Merced Tunnel) by December 31, 2021 (when the existing described armoring is also required to be removed).

Due to the known coastal hazard risks present at the proposed project location, permitting this infrastructure would be inappropriate, especially given the long-term, stakeholder-driven planning for this area currently underway. If the infrastructure is built as proposed, it would undermine the Ocean Beach Master Plan for this area and may perpetuate future shoreline armoring at this location.

Why You Should Care

The seaward placement of this new structure goes against the Ocean Beach Master Plan data set and undermines the managed retreat strategy intended for this stretch of shoreline. This project would create a new asset the City would be required to protect. The staff report admits there is a high probability this structure will be under threat by 2050. This means we have a greater likelihood of a future SFPUC request to add more robust armoring. Additionally, it sets a bad precedent. If this project is approved on the seaward location of the existing footprint, why would additional new structures be denied the same privilege?


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

At the outset of Commission discussion, Commissioner Mark Vargas noted that he is concerned about the location of the proposed development. He said, “The facility is designed to be around for a long time and we already know it will face issues with sea level rise in about 30 years.” His comments sparked a productive conversation on whether to continue this item to the May hearing where it could be considered alongside the City of San Francisco’s LCP update.

Commissioner Aaron Peskin, also a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, voiced support for the project as submitted. Given the apparent will of Commissioners, Commissioner Peskin motioned to continue this decision to the May hearing in the North Central district so it can be heard in conjunction with the San Francisco LCP update for coastal hazards and sea level rise. Commissioner Carole Groom seconded the motion. While some continuances merely kick the can down the road, this instance lends itself to better planning and decision making given that the decision will be part of the larger, long-term planning effort.

Organizations Opposed

Surfrider Foundation, Mark Massara

Decision Type


Staff Recommendation

Approval with Conditions

Coastal Act Policy