Some residents are questioning the necessity of the sand berms built every fall along Venice Beach to protect public property from storm waves.
L.A. County has built the sand berms since the 1970s and significantly improved their design since a severe 1983 storm wiped out several structures along the coast. The county builds 11 seasonal sand berms that measure about 15 feet high and vary in length between 235 feet and 1,343 feet to protect lifeguard towers, bathrooms and parking lots. Two are located at Venice Beach, two at Dockweiler Beach, one at Hermosa Beach and six at Zuma Beach.
During a meeting held on Tuesday to discuss the sand berms at Venice Beach, some local residents complained that the structures obstruct ocean views for pedestrians along ocean front walk and homeowners, and hinder access to the beach.
“We think our environment is terrible, as far as maintaining basic infrastructure, so we have doubts,” said Sammy Jabara, a Buccaneer Street resident. “So when this blocks our view and blocks our access, it causes us not to like it. And at the same time, we don’t feel that there is sure protection [from storms] by a scientific study.”
Although L.A. County Beaches and Harbors Department, which builds the sand berms in mid-November and deconstructs them in mid-February, has not conducted a thorough scientific study on the berms, officials said they use mostly empirical and anecdotal data to determine the size of the berms.
A 1983 storm damaged the Venice Beach parking lot and the bathrooms, and storms during the winter of 2005-2006 pummeled the region.
“The waves were so massive [in the 2005 storm] that it took out a building on the Venice Pier,” said Ken Foreman, chief of DBH facilities and maintenance division.
After the last major storm in 2005-2006, the berm height was increased.
The sand berm that residents were most concerned about is the one near OFW and Washington Boulevard as it is the closest to residential property and the most obtrusive. It is meant to protect the county-owned parking lot on Washington Boulevard.
“Beach parking generates a lot of revenue, for the city, the county, businesses and restaurants,” said DBH Deputy Director John Kelly. “And sand berms are the most cost-effective way to do this.”
A permanent and very expensive solution would be to build a rock wall, Kelly said.
“We are protecting a public asset for a lot of people who can’t afford to live on the beach and have that view year-round,” Kelly said. “If they can’t park at the beach, they can’t go to the beach.”
The Beaches and Harbors Department must renew its permit with the California Coastal Commission for next year’s sand berms, and although there will be no change to sand structures this year, there may be alterations in the future with community input.