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Some Residents Upset Over Venice Beach Sand Dunes

Sand berms are built every year to protect public facilities from storm damage.

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.

Mark Ryavec December 12, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Residents may want to consider that with sea level rise and higher storm surges, the County will have to consider permanent coastal sand dunes or run the risk that a major storm event will take out not only parking lots, Life Guard HQs, restrooms and the bike path, but also inundate properties all along the coast. Remember the storm that destroyed 2/3rds of the Santa Monica Pier? Well, we can expect to see much worse as a result of climate change, a la Sandy.
Saltwater December 13, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Keep in mind that the coast from Pacific Palisades to Torrance is a man-made beach and the sand is artificially held in place by a series of groins and jetties.
Bill December 13, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I'm sorry to hear that some people are upset about the berms, I guess we do away with them and then listen to them complain about getting water damage. Why is this society turning into a me, me, me society? You are very lucky to be able to live right by the beach and for most of the year you have some amazing views. Please think about the bigger picture rather than just yourselves.
Sandi December 13, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Unfortunately, there will always be people who see the glass as half empty instead of half full. Personally I love the berms, they're fun to climb on for a couple months out of the year in our exceptionally wonderful Southern California weather. We are lucky to live here.
Eric Sterz December 13, 2012 at 09:12 PM
I also live on Buccaneer but have no problem with it. I agree with Bill and Sandi, the people who are complaining about the berms will most definitely be the people who would/will complain the most when something happens... To the place they are paying rent.
Patti Lagomarsino December 14, 2012 at 01:41 AM
I have lived here since 1972 and this is the first time I've heard that the berm was for protection of life guard towers and parking lot. Although the berm may now be for the protection of County property, in truth it was created for the protection of ground floor residents and businesses along Washington. The beaches are very narrow where the parking lots are, so when those waves hit the asphalt, it flies across flooding everything ground level. It's not fresh fish at your table, but fresh fish by your table. It's only been in the last three years, that they are supplying filled sand bags. I've dealt with Lake Buccaneer for years, but at least with the berm, I don't have to worry about getting nailed from the ocean side. All of this is a small price to pay in order to live in a great and wonderful neighborhood. Another thing, the kids love the berm this time of year. They bring out their skimmers & boogie boards
faith Kelly December 14, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Listen all you rich home owners that just happen to move down here for not too long. I've been here for 56 years and that has always been done to protect your nice homes so that when you do come home your house is still there. One year the tide came up and took the bike shop with all the bikes and the bathroom at the South Venice parking lot. Now why don't you all take time and walk out of your beautiful homes and get a closer look, shoot even get a great big breath of fresh air...!!!

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