Reducing Coastal Erosion
A Santa Barbara County report on bluff erosion found that Isla Vista’s cliffs lose an average of six to fourteen inches of ground per year. Battered by rising tides and threatened by climate change, hundreds of students are at risk of losing their home or belongings to the crumbling cliffs.
While some homes have lost as little as one foot of cliff, other locations have lost substantially more. In 2017, after several days of heavy rain, a ten-foot stretch of bluffs between two homes on Del Playa fell into the ocean. 28 students were forced out of their home and left without housing.
With 25 years of experience as a civil engineer, Bruce will make it a priority to safeguard Isla Vista’s future and unique geography. It's our responsibility to preserve our environment and to prevent additional housing shortages here in Isla Vista.
Methods to Reduce Coastal Erosion
1. Re-introduce Native Plants
Invasive and non-native plants like Iceplant, a succulent shrub introduced to California, increase coastal erosion rather than prevent it. A very heavy plant with a shallow root system, Iceplant’s leaves swell during intense rainfall and increase the risk of a landslide or bluff collapse. The dense, thick mat of leaves that cling to Del Playa’s cliffs make it impossible for native species to grow. Along with competing with native shrubs and flowers for light, water and space, Iceplant creates an inhospitable environment for growth by releasing salt into the soil. It also prevents seabirds from nesting and does not provide food for animals.
Iceplant should be replaced with native flora to protect our bluffs. With strong root systems and proper ground cover, those plants — like the coast sunflower, purple sage, harmony manzanita and the California lilac — work better to prevent erosion and control runoff. They also provide a habitat for native insects and butterflies, and when in bloom, their flowers beautify Isla Vista.
2. Retaining Walls
Community stakeholders and County staff need to lead the discussion regarding the future of Del Playa’s cliffs. While developing a long-term solution could take several years, County leaders need to prioritize the issue to protect students from rising tides and climate change.
Though only a temporary solution, retaining walls are already used on some stretches of Isla Vista’s beaches. Placed toward the bluffs and away from the sand, the wooden walls protect property from waves and future slippage while limiting beach erosion. Other methods of preventing erosion — like replacing sand and sediment, or creating soft barriers — are costly and require routine replenishment.
Protecting the future of Isla Vista’s cliffs is a top priority, one Bruce pledges to pursue if elected.