Beacon’s Beach bluff landscaping project wins approval 

Ice plant
A patch of ice plant grows near the base of the bluff at Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas. Native plants are planned as replacements.
(Bill Wechter)

Encinitas planners say ice plant, acacia to be replaced with native species

Plans to remove the invasive ice plant and other non-native species on Beacon’s Beach bluff and replace them with native plants won unanimous approval from the Encinitas Planning Commission last week.

“I’m super looking forward to this,” Commissioner Kevin Doyle, a Leucadia resident said before the vote, which approved major use and coastal development permits for the project.

The actual putting of plants into the ground won’t happen until much later this year — either November or December — and will be timed to take advantage of the winter rainy season so the plants will do better, said Jennifer Campbell, the city’s parks, recreation and cultural arts director.

During the planting period, the popular dirt trail that goes down the bluff to the beach will remain open and so will the bluff-top parking lot on Neptune Avenue, city staff members stressed.

Doyle said the new landscape project’s positive reception at the Thursday, Feb. 18 commission meeting stood in stark contrast to another Beacon’s Beach project put forward in 2018 — a free-standing beach access staircase that would have almost appeared to float in front of the bluff. Leucadia area residents hated the staircase idea, and the planning commissioners ultimately rejected both staircase design options.

During that “hot topic item,” many people complained that the city seemed to be deliberately letting the longstanding beach access route — the dirt trail — decay by not doing regular maintenance work. That situation has definitely changed since then, Doyle said, adding that he frequently receives compliments on how nice the trail now looks.

The new landscaping project will involve removing various non-native species, including ice plant and acacia, and replacing them with clusters of plants native to coastal region. The native plant list will include four-wing saltbush, bladder pod, box thorn, giant wild rye, bush sunflower and coastal buckwheat.

Plans call for hand-planting 700 plants grown in one-gallon pots, as well as doing hydroseeding.

“All container plant locations will have pin flags installed with a different color representing each species to track survivability over the course of the project,” city staff report states.

They’ll be putting in the plants in groups of three to four individuals in a random pattern to “mimic natural growth patterns,” it continues. “Initially, these plantings will appear sparse, but plantings are expected to establish quickly and naturalize within two to three years to form cover typical of the coastal bluff habitats,” it concludes.

The new plants will be irrigated using a pressurized water truck until they are established, which is expected to occur in two years.

— Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune