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by Rachel Christopherson

West Cliff Drive and Lighthouse
(Credit: City of Santa Cruz )

West Cliff Drive in the of City of Santa Cruz, California spans 2.5 miles of ocean views, cliffs and beaches.  That stretch is home to an iconic lighthouse, prime surf spots, and is frequented by the wealthy and working class alike.   But sea-level rise and storms threaten to undercut the road.  This summer, the Center for the Blue Economy will help City managers determine the best way forward for West Cliff Drive.  

West Cliff Drive Aerial View

The Center for the Blue Economy (CBE), in collaboration with Revell Coastal and a team of scientists and engineers, is undertaking a research project aimed at helping the City of Santa Cruz determine the most effective and economically viable options for the future of West Cliff Drive in the face of rising seas, and increasingly intense storm surges.   The CBE will analyze the economic value of the area, including public and private property at risk for sea level rise-related damage, the transportation system, and recreational activities along the West Cliff walkway.

 

West Cliff Drive Walkers
(Credit: Santa Cruz Sentinel )

The project will allow the CBE to further extend its research into the economics of sea level rise adaptation that began with the Monterey sea level rise evaluation.  Where the Monterey study focused primarily on property damage, the West Cliff Drive project will require examining a complex mix of property, recreation, and transportation values.

An important part of the study will be determining the recreation values at risk from sea level rise.  West Cliff Drive is a world-famous surfing site, home to the surfer’s museum.  It is a popular tourist destination adjacent to the Santa Cruz pier.  It is also a major resource for local residents who bike, run, walk their dogs, and swim.  CBE is conducting a survey of visitors to West Cliff Drive over the next year to estimate the economic value of these recreational activities for both residents and nonresidents.  The survey is being done in partnership with the City of Santa Cruz.

The CBE and Revell Coastal will conclude the work in December of 2020, contributing to a draft West Cliff Drive Adaptation and Management Plan and giving presentations to Caltrans and the City government and residents. 

West Cliff Drive Surfer Statue
(Credit: Trip Advisor )
West Cliff Drive Blowhole
The West Cliff Drive blowhole between Auburn and Chico avenues shoots a geyser of sea water into the air as a large swell hits the cliff. (Credit: Santa Cruz Sentinel )