Santa Monica Bluffs

Aloe Arborescens, Bluffs of Santa Monica by Harry MattullPassive pensive scene with Palos Verdes at the horizon. Seemingly sublime, no?

Harry Mattull paints this seaview from Palisades Park – a popular park precariously placed atop an impermanent bluff, overlying a gully-riddled, hollowed-out badland, caused by wind and water erosion on a steep clay and sandy slope.

Notice how the artist paints out the Coast Boulevard?  Romantic.

An early 20th century wasteland at the beach bejeweled by black Southern Pacific railroad tracks leading towards the wharf and a skinny sandy road for the newly popular automobile.Santa Monica Palisades Park

The Coast Boulevard was built over the tracks and road, and then enlarged to 2 to 4 to now 6 lanes below this ancient sand dune and river plain.  The beach widened and replenished with sand so that tourism to the beaches became an economy for Los Angeles.

In August of 1951, 4 tons of debris slid onto the road and became a newspaper sensation.


Next month, October 2009, stabilization work begins on the federally funded $2.38M Santa Monica Palisades Bluffs Improvements project.  The contractor, PCH Partners, describes the work, “The improvements are intended to decrease the rate of gradual deterioration of the Bluffs caused by localized slope failures due to groundwater seepage.  Horizontal drainage pipes called hydraugers will be installed to collect groundwater by drilling one to three hundred feet into the face of the bluff.”  100 hydraugers (perforated pipes an inch and a half in diameter) will be installed into the vertical bluff space from the California Incline to the northwest boundary of Santa Monica at Adelaide Drive.

Surface treatments and native plant restoration are additional features of this drainage improvement project.  “The surface treatments consist of measures such as the application of a spray-on chemical grout and a soil/chemical grout mixture.”  Native plants will help prevent soil erosion and will not require watering.  Lastly, while the drainage, planting and grouting work is underway, removal of overhanging soil blocks (projections of sandy clay mass and/or boulders), old pavement, concrete blocks and pipes will be effected so as to not present potential falling hazards on PCH traffic below.

Good stuff, no?  A stabilization solution to a 100 year problem of slumpage and falling rocks onto the heavily traveled thoroughfare.

SM Bluffs Hydrauger proposed sites

Local drivers are freaking out!  The 1.6 miles along Pacific Coast Highway where this construction work will take place is not a coastal stretch of languid vacation driving, such as along the southern stretch of Big Sur coastline.  This is L.A. Baby!  This is commute traffic 24/7!

Nights are lighter in road load than the daytime hours, but cars constantly come and go, feeding onto and off of the Santa Monica Freeway (aka I-10).  Eastbound drivers surge inland, to the Valley (San Fernando), to get to Beverly Hills, to get to Hollywood, to get to downtown Los Angeles.  Westbound drivers use this bluff-bound passage to reach the beaches from Santa Monica to Malibu.  Vacationers driving the entirety of Highway 1, exit the Robert E. McClure Tunnel from the freeway, to drive northbound along this stretch.

PCH Partners lists on its project webpage, “Allowable working hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday (if necessary).  However allowable lane closures on PCH (#3 northbound lane nearest to the bluffs) will be restricted to occur between 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm Monday-Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday (if necessary).

Flashing arrow boards and changeable message signs will be installed at critical locations to re-direct traffic and inform commuters. Access to all driveways, California Incline, and on-and-off ramps will be maintained.”

In addition to a 24-hour project hotline (866) 755-7679, PCH Partners will provide weekly Twitter feeds!

Road work is always a damned if you do, damned if you don’t enterprise.  CalTrans specifically scheduled this start date of October so as to avoid the increased beach-going traffic during the summer.  The project’s scheduled end date is April 2010.  Hopefully drivers can maintain throughout the improvement work.  Remember to Slow for the Cone Zone.

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