Santa Monica's Natural Dune Restoration Project Celebrates 4 Years

October 15, 2020 2:52 PM
by Drew L. Johnstone

To improve the biodiversity and resilience of Santa Monica’s beaches, and to address potential impacts of sea level rise, the City of Santa Monica partnered with The Bay Foundation to pilot a Natural Dune Beach Restoration Project in 2016 near Annenberg Community Beach House in the North Beach area.  The project has brought back a rare coastal habitat to the Los Angeles region.  Now celebrating its four-year anniversary, native vegetation continues to blossom, and dunes continue to form and provide resilience to sea level rise and beach erosion.  Additionally, the beach project has provided new habitat for wildlife such as the federally threatened and locally beloved Western Snowy Plover.  

Photos from The Bay Foundation, taken June 11, 2020, showing flowering plants that add color to the landscape. Bottom left: Beach Evening Primrose (Camissoniopis cheiranthifolia), Bottom right: Sand Verbena (Abronia maritima). 

Shannon Parry, the City of Santa Monica’s Chief Sustainability Officer said, “This project is an example of successful community sustainability. We were able to protect and enhance our coastal ecosystem while supporting our local residents and visitors by protecting the beach that so many enjoy.” 

The process to reintroduce a more natural beach habitat began in 2016 with the implementation of a three-acre dune pilot project in the North Beach area.  Volunteers, students, and staff suspended beach grooming, erected a low fence and seeded native plants to encourage dune growth. The pilot serves as a model for similar beach restoration projects throughout coastal California, successfully demonstrating important resiliency and ecosystem benefits.  It has led the way for three additional living shoreline projects in the Los Angeles region, and numerous others throughout the state.

“We are so thrilled to see so much diversity, but my favorite part is watching people interact with the system – reading the signs, looking at the plants, and taking pictures,” states Karina Johnston, Science Director for The Bay Foundation. The Bay Foundation and the pilot project’s scientific contributors have been providing comprehensive monitoring data to the City of Santa Monica and other beach communities in Southern California.  The Bay Foundation recently published the Year 4 Annual Report for the City of Santa Monica, California Coastal Commission U.S. EPA, and California Department of Parks and Recreation.  It includes many more photos of the project and scientific monitoring data.

For more information, to volunteer, or to stay informed, visit the Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project website.

Authored By

Drew L. Johnstone
Sustainability Analyst