GLEASON BEACH DEBACLE BY CalTrans
We wish to correct a substantive mistake and a mistaken impression contained in the
article about the “Gleason Beach CalTrans Realignment” by Rosanna Xia, published in
the LA Times, November 27th, 2020.
The substantive mistake concerned the reason for the 28’ altitude of this immense
bridge over a small valley. It was not for emergency vehicle access but for hay trucks
bound for the historic cattle ranch below.
Since the unveiling of this Caltrans project in 2007, local citizens have been consistently protesting it. If constructed, the massive bridge will despoil the uniquely picturesque Scotty Creek view-shed while creating a man-made geohazard. Less expensive, less dangerous alternatives have been proposed to Caltrans but have been summarily rejected.
The valley in which the tallest pylons will be footed is wet, fragile and susceptible to
liquefaction. The San Andreas fault lies .7 miles off-shore and a fault branch runs
directly through the construction site. The valley is already subject to wave and tidal
surge and will likely be the area of drainage from the new bridge construction, further
destabilizing the footings and accelerating erosion of adjacent cliffs.
The Environmental Impact Report was never reviewed by the California Geologic Survey
but was instead directed to the Land Resources division at the Department of
Conservation. Caltrans has never released construction detail. The Sonoma County
Board of Supervisors let the proposal pass to the California Coastal Commission for
approval. What might one surmise from this irregular process?
Our group of concerned citizens includes well-known geologists, long-time credentialed
coastal conservationists and public health representation. We sent a detailed letter of
our concerns to the California Coastal Commission prior to the hearing. The letter was
not addressed, nor were group members allowed adequate time to speak, due to an
arbitrary 90-second time limit on individual public comments.
There is great political will and money from a undisclosed sources set aside for this
project that are driving it ahead, despite its obvious risks. But it seems that the “boys
with their toys” will have their way once again, despite the efforts of an informed
citizenry. For the local public, the ranching families who are to be displaced and visitors
to the Sonoma coast for whom this landscape is deeply cherished, the decision to move
ahead is a tragic one. But potential loss of human lives as a consequence of a manmade
geohazard would be the biggest tragedy of all. We continue to pursue all avenues of
Thank you for your attention.
Richard R., on behalf of the Save the Sonoma Coast
California Coastal Conservancy, Retired (1985-2008)
Sonoma County General Plan staff 1972-1980
Author, Sonoma County Local Coastal Plan Work Program 1977-78