Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Examples of Managed Retreat in the U.S.


Examples of Managed Retreat in the U.S.

California Coast

On this page, you will visit two locations on the California coast where the process of managed retreat has been used to address shoreline erosion problems. In the first example, at Ventura Beach near Santa Barbara in southern California, stakeholders worked together to find a solution to a chronic shoreline erosion problem. In the second example, at Pacifica Beach near San Francisco, wetland and riparian habitat were enhanced, while at the same time moving structures out of the way of flooding and erosion. As you will see, both examples are in locations that have a medium level of human development, a motivated group of residents, and diverse stakeholders who collaborated to produce and execute a long-term plan. Both areas are in economically healthy areas, which makes raising funds more feasible. However, none of these things are easy to accomplish. These small-scale, less than ten-acre, projects serve as valuable learning experiences, but larger-scale projects of similar kinds will likely need to be implemented in the near future, on the scale of, for example, Ocean Beach, which you studied in Module 8 Lab.

In the Ventura Beach example ( - Restoring Surfer's Point), Surfers' Point Shoreline Managed Retreat Project is described and illustrated. The article outlines the challenges that had to be overcome to find consensus among the many stakeholders, with the project taking a decade to come to fruition. The stakeholders found that "Focusing on goals they had in common and identifying a bounded problem helped the groups converge on a single solution strategy. The decision to retreat from the ocean—pulling existing structures inland to make room for natural beach processes—allayed concerns that a hardened solution such as a seawall would degrade conditions for surfing, opened opportunities to rehabilitate the beach ecosystem, and enhanced the natural protection of assets on land." In this example, the road and parking areas are moved back and the beach and dunes widened. Volunteers planted native vegetation on the dunes, which serve as natural habitat and protection for the human structures behind the beach.

Restoration and Managed Retreat of Pacifica State Beach examines the Pacifica Beach effort to create climate change coastal community resilience. At Pacifica Beach, the managed realignment project is touted as a success.