Assembly committee discusses sea level rise at Encinitas hearing

Members of the Assembly's Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy discussed how to address some of the most pressing local issues caused by sea level rise.
(Luke Harold)

With the goal of facing “the realities of the next 100 years,” Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath held a meeting of the Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy at Encinitas City Hall Dec. 3.

“It’s going to be a change in our way of life,” said Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas, the committee’s chair, referring to steps local residents will have to take to preserve the region’s habitability for future generations, including reducing emissions.

Two other members of the Assembly’s Select Committee on Sea Level Rise and the California Economy also attended the hearing: Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, and Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach.

Gloria, a candidate for San Diego mayor, mentioned approximately $6 million in the current state budget for Del Mar bluff stabilization secured by state Sen. President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. Sea level rise, which is exacerbated by increased emissions, accelerates the pace of bluff collapses along the North County coast and has become an increasing public safety concern for beachgoers. Local officials have also expressed their concern about the train tracks that run along the bluff in Del Mar. Long-term plans are being discussed to move the tracks inland.

“What we want to do is be more proactive and more thoughtful,” Gloria said of the potential solutions.

The hearing included presentations from Eileen Maher, director of environmental conservation for the Port of San Diego; Brendan Reed, planning and environmental affairs director of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority; and Mark Merrifield, director of the UC San Diego-based Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation.

“We need to embrace aggressive mitigation policy to lower emissions and keep the risk as low as possible going forward,” said Merrifield, who discussed sea level rise and its effects on bluff collapses along San Diego’s coastline.

Oceanside City Councilman Ryan Keim, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina and Encinitas City Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze were among the local elected officials who spoke.

Hinze mentioned the evolution of Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas from an autocentric corridor to a walkable community hub for residents and visitors.

“Highway 101 really is our town square,” she said, adding that it is “our lifeblood to both our economy and to coastal access.”

“Our highway has continued to adapt as we have to become a gathering place for people of all abilities, all ages to gather there without a carbon-emitting vehicle,” she continued. “Bikes, on foot, strollers, wheelchairs. That’s what our highway is working on.”

Hinze also encouraged those in attendance to contact the Army Corps of Engineers about federal funding for bluff stabilization. She mentioned the three women who were killed on the beach in Encinitas this past summer when a portion of the bluff collapsed.

During recent town halls in Del Mar and Solana Beach, U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, said he’s been in touch with the corps to let them know about the sense of urgency in the local community for bluff stabilization. Francine Busby, Levin’s district director, told the committee during public comment that the congressman will continue his efforts to secure federal funding for bluff stabilization.

Boerner Horvath, a former Encinitas city councilwoman, said Tuesday’s hearing would be the first of many hearings the committee will hold throughout the state to come up with solutions that best address the local effects of sea level rise.

“We know this is happening throughout the state, and we need to be moving forward,” she said.