By Julian Schoen

Pleasure Point, the world-famous surf spot located on the east side of Santa Cruz, is in dire need of a facelift. Determined to armor Pleasure Point, the Santa Cruz County government is working to quell the community’s fears.

Deterioration caused by coastal erosion has significantly weakened the landmark cliff, and the damage has caused members of the public to question its safety and durability. Despite a failed attempt in 2003, the county supervisors have revisited and approved a measure to build a 1,100-foot seawall along the base of Pleasure Point. The initiative awaits a ruling—expected this summer—from the California Coastal Commission.

If passed, the seawall will cost an estimated $7 million and will imitate the ramparts supporting the walls between 38th and 41st Streets.

The plan calls for reinforcement that will use soil pins to fortify the decaying parts of the cliff. A wire mesh grid will then be affixed to the fastened dirt, providing a secure mold for the modified ridge. Spray-on concrete will complete the buttress, paving the way for the ensured preservation of this celebrated landmark. A few artistic touches, camouflaging the wall to blend in with the rest of the rock, will retain the beauty of Pleasure Point.

Many entities count on the well-being of Pleasure Point, such as East Cliff Drive, which runs along the bluff, as well as residents who live along the precipice and the many pedestrians and tourists who use the recreational walkways along the point.

In addition, important sewer and water lines that empty out onto the beaches run below the area. Janet Beautz, a member on the County Board of Supervisors, described the importance of maintaining the sanitation system.

“[The sewer and water lines are] all gravity-fed into Pleasure Point,” Beautz said. “There’s not a lot of extra land to replace them.”

However, opponents to the plan, such as the Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation, expressed concern that the wall will disrupt nature’s course.

Erosion creates more sand for the beaches, and cutting off the supply from the seawall could hurt the seashore. Seawalls have the potential to alter the natural surf of the ocean, angering some local surfers.

UC Santa Cruz’s Gary Griggs, a professor of marine biology, recognizes the fervor surrounding this project. Professor Griggs worked on the Environmental Impact Report that led Santa Cruz County to approve the Pleasure Point plan.

Griggs said he served as an impartial consultant, examining the geological impact erosion inflicted on the surrounding area.

The report described the need for a seawall to support East Cliff Drive, the pedestrian walkway, as well as the sewage and water drains.

“It’s a psychological [fear],” Griggs said, suggesting the community is hostile toward an embankment that would damage Pleasure Point’s natural beauty.

Griggs quelled fears of objectors by moving the focus away from a “wall” and all its implications.

“I would prefer to call it bluff stabilization,” he insisted, noting that the plan is imperative to the welfare of the cliff and not a means of ruining its allure.

Paul Rodriguez, project director on the Transportation Committee, is also dedicated to calming the distress of the plan’s opponents.

Santa Cruz is well-known as an environmentally friendly city. Rodriguez noted the dilemma the county government faces.

“In this case, as a government agency, we act in the public’s interest, maintaining Pleasure Point’s access,” Rodriguez said.

Although nature’s course would be disturbed, the government has a responsibility to protect the people.

“We’re trying to balance these issues while not hurting the environment,” Rodriguez explained.

The plan awaits a decision by the California Coastal Committee, expected by the end of this year. If approved, construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2008.