By Betty Yu

SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — Officials in Santa Cruz are being pressed to figure out a fix for an upscale waterfront street that is being threatened by an eroding cliff.

West Cliff Drive sits on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is home to multi-million dollar villas.

But major parts of the coastal road are currently at risk of crumbling away because of rising sea levels.

There are boulders put in place to keep it from eroding, but experts say that is just a short term solution.

One section of West Cliff Drive has been cordoned off.

UC Santa Cruz Earth Sciences Professor Gary Griggs says residents, tourists, and city and state officials must deal with the problem of erosion now and for decades to come.

“It’s real, it’s now, it’s happening. Denial is a river in Egypt,” explained Griggs.

He says 40 percent of West Cliff Drive is armored with piles of rocks also known as “riprap” to prevent erosion.

“A lot of that rock was put in by the city with emergency permits. And the California Coastal Commission — our permitting authority — is kind of tightening up things,” said Griggs. “They don’t want to see any more riprap, they don’t want to see anymore seawalls.”

That’s because Griggs says the commission is concerned about the loss of public access to beaches.

The latest Santa Cruz study shows that sea levels will rise four inches by 2030, 28 inches by 2060 and 63 inches by the turn of the next century.

Right now the coastal commission is putting out a request for a long-term management plan for firms to bid on. Researchers would study the rate of erosion and figure out what to do next with West Cliff Drive.

For one homeowner, the crisis is literally at their door step. This is the only house on the ocean side of the road.

Griggs does consulting work for them and says they’re in a battle with the state over riprap that was put in place without permission.

“It’s a big deal for all those California homeowners that just assumed this was going to be their retirement home or their biggest investment, that the rules are sort of being enforced now in a way they weren’t in the past,” said Griggs.

“We’ve been coming here for a very long time; for over 20 years. And I hope my children’s children, my grandchildren get to come and enjoy the landscape here, but I don’t know if it’s still going to be here when they’re old enough,” said beach visitor Wendy Mosgrove.

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