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California State Report



Indicator Type Info Status
Beach Access 9  
Water Quality
Beach Erosion – 
Erosion Response – 
Beach Fill 7   – 
Shoreline Structures
Beach Ecology – 
Surfing Areas 10 
Website – 


California's beach health indicators are a study in contrasts. California has one of the most comprehensive beach water quality testing programs of all the coastal states, but also has by far the most beach closures and advisories of all the states. Beach access information is plentiful and access is generally good, except for some disputed areas in communities like Malibu and Santa Barbara. Erosion is a problem in many areas throughout the state, prompting many private coastal property owners and municipalities to install seawalls and other hard structures to protect their investments, often at the expense of the beach. Finding alternatives to shoreline structures is essential to preserve the remaining coastal resources. California recognizes waves as valuable recreational, economic and cultural resources..


(+) California’s coastline north of San Francisco has very little to no shoreline structures.
(+) 70% of Californians say the condition of the coast is important to them personally, 60% of state residents believe the federal government is not doing enough to protect the coast, and 71% of Californians favor establishing more marine reserves along the coast.
(+) Several Surfrider chapters in California have an active Beachscape program, which encourages the public to map access points and coastal development along the coastlines.
(+) The previously closed public beach access path next to a famous music producer's Malibu mansion is now open to the public. Offers to Dedicate (OTD) public access easements are one method used to mitigate permitted projects that negatively impact public access along California’s shoreline.
(+) Since 1976, the California State Coastal Conservancy has spent over $200 million to support projects that purchase, protect, restore, and enhance coastal resources.
(+) During 2002, the California Coastal Commission Statewide Coastal Access Program assisted in the acceptance of 136 Offers to Dedicate (OTD), providing additional horizontal (along the coast) and vertical (to the coast) access points.
(+) California recognizes waves as a valuable recreational, economic, and cultural resource.
(+)Voters in Los Angeles County passed a $500 million bond measure in November 2004 to address the problem of non-point source pollution. The money will be used to build filtration plants, install cisterns to recycle storm water, install a system to divert stormwater into groundwater supplies, and install screens and other mechanisms to remove trash from rivers and lakes.
(+) Governor Schwarzenegger unveiled an ocean protection plan that includes establishing a California Ocean Protection Council that will guide ocean policy and coastal protection.

(0) About 80% of California's 33 million residents live within 50 kilometers of the Pacific Ocean.
(0) Approximately 950 miles (86%) of California's coastline is actively eroding.
(0) California has the largest Ocean Economy in the United States, ranking number one overall for both employment and gross state product.

(-) The percentage of Ventura County’s coastline that is armored jumped from approximately 27% in 1971 to 45% in 1998. Orange County’s coastal armoring percentages increased from less than 10% in 1971 to 29% in 1998.
(-) Many beaches along California’s coast are shrinking. One contributing factor is dams that are blocking sand from reaching the coastline. See and
(-) The extent of shoreline armoring increased from about 26 miles to 110 miles between 1971 and 1992. Two strong El Niño winters have occurred since 1990, undoubtedly adding to this total.
(-) A study by University of California, Irvine Department of Environmental Health, Science and Policy estimates 74,000 people go to the doctor for stomach illness, respiratory disease and eye, ear and skin infections caused by exposure to the polluted waters south of LA in a typical year. This costs approximately $3.3 million per year.
(-) 3,985 beach days were affected by closures or advisories during 2004. Water testing has detected human adenoviruses, fecal coliform, and other disease-causing bacteria, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals.
(-) Every day, 37 ocean outfalls in California discharge over 1.5 billion gallons of sewage containing about 120 million tons of mass solids (sewage sludge).


  • The Huntington Beach/Seal Beach Chapter helped convince the Huntington Beach City Council to reject the draft EIR on a proposed desalination facility. The chapter continues to oppose this facility, which would utilize a fish-killing water intake system.
  • The HB/SB chapter also submitted comments in support of the City of Seal Beach sucessfully opposing the expansion of a marina in east Seal Beach.
  • The Isla Vista Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and the UCSB Environmental Affairs Board teamed up to create a board of directors that would give grants to projects benefiting the UCSB coast. This project has contributed over $100,000 to the coast.
  • The Laguna Beach Chapter is part of a large coalition of environmental organizations who have been supporting removal of a private trailer park and implementation of a State Park plan to return an area of Crystal Cove State Park to a more natural setting as a state park campground. The Coastal Commission approved this project in October 2004 and restoration of the area is scheduled to begin in spring 2006.
  • The Long Beach Chapter helped convince a majority of the City Council to agree to study the removal of the southern breakwater and the return of waves to Belmont Shores.
  • The Malibu Chapter developed signage to educate visitors on how to be responsible “tide poolers.” The chapter is presently developing a Tide Pool Awareness program to continue this effort.
  • The Malibu Chapter attended and spoke at numerous city council meetings to support the efforts of Communities Organized Against Smoking and its Trash (COAST), resulting in 34 miles of smoke-free beaches from Dockweiler Beach north to the Los Angeles/Ventura County line.
  • The Marin County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is assisting the Marin County Water Testing Program by collecting water samples at five sites.
  • For the second year in a row the Newport Beach Chapter conducted a huge beach cleanup and educational event at the mouth of the Santa Ana River for over 500 students from Orange Lutheran High School. Over 1800 pounds of trash were collected.
  • The Newport Beach Chapter received the generous donation of a billboard located on Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, which is a main route to area beaches. The billboard will be used over a 3-year period to raise awareness of water quality issues at our beaches and the urban runoff that affects it.
  • In June 2004, the South Orange County Chapter, Friends of the Foothills, and other coalition partners turned out over 800 people for a Foothill-South extension toll road public hearing. They followed this up with a turnout of over 1,000 people at a State Parks Commission hearing in November 2005 and convinced the Commission to pass a resolution opposing any route of the tollroad that encroached upon State Park property. Surfrider Foundation, as part of a coalition of environmental groups, filed suit against the Transportation Corridor Agencies in March 2006, challenging the adequacy of their Environmental Impact Report for the project. The proposed toll road would affect up to 500 acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat while running through the Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy and San Onofre State Park and impacting water quality at Trestles.
  • The San Diego Chapter held its 12th Annual Paddle For Clean Water. San Diego's Paddle brought approximately 750 people to the Ocean Beach Pier, including San Diego City Councilwoman and Clean Water Matriarch, Donna Frye.
  • The San Luis Bay Chapter, along with several partner organizations, convinced the Joint Powers Authority in the Morro Bay area to study an upgrade to their sewage treatment facility and discontinue their application for a 301(h) waiver.
  • San Mateo Chapter activists celebrated the completion of a new water quality testing lab in summer 2004 which will allow them to produce water quality results at the popular Surfer’s Beach overnight and post them publicly Saturday mornings.
  • The South Bay Chapter constructed a watershed model at the EcoStation in Culver City. This model and short lecture are fashioned after our "Sea to Summit" campaign and will be seen by thousands of school children and families who tour the EcoStation.
  • Ventura County Chapter had one of those “watershed” moments when all the relevant agencies finally agreed on the wisdom of removing Matilija Dam, as well as “managed retreat” at Surfer’s Point.
  • The Ventura Chapter concluded an 8-year battle against an industrial polluter whose discharges of approximately 100,000 gallons per day were draining to San Buenaventura State Beach. The company agreed to cease all discharges at this location by January 1, 2006.

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