Building a Better Beach

Encinal Beach, which has sweeping views of the bay, is about to get a major facelift.


Joe Sullivan is the project manager of the Encinal Beach improvements.

Photo by Chris Duffey

Joe Sullivan strolled onto Encinal Beach on a recent morning and began to point out all the changes in store for this strip of neglected waterfront, right behind Encinal High School. It was a cloudy morning, but the bay waters were calm, almost glassy. Birds soared overhead as harbor seals clung to a floating dock about 200 yards from shore, not far from the USS Hornet. In the background, beyond the seals, lurked the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, and the Peninsula. “The views are amazing,” noted Sullivan, who works for the East Bay Regional Park District. “It’s a cool spot.”

And it’s about to get a whole lot cooler.

Encinal Beach, also known to some locals as Breakwater Beach, is set to undergo a major facelift thanks to funds from Measures WW and AA. Sullivan said the park district plans to begin its $500,000 project next summer. “This area is going to become a lot more attractive to park users and boaters,” he said.

Encinal Beach is already popular with many kayakers, boaters, and anglers. The beach is home to an outrigger class and a daily summer boating camp. The mile-long rock seawall that juts out from the beach and into the bay makes for ideal calm waters. We named it Best Fishing Spot in our 2016 annual Best of Alameda issue.

For many Alamedans, however, Encinal Beach is a well-kept secret. That’s partly due to the fact that it’s easy to miss. The beach is only accessible via the Bay Trail or a narrow street off Central Avenue, next to Encinal Junior and Senior high schools. The city also has major plans for making the beach more accessible—but it could take a few years for that to happen.

The park district leases a large portion of the shoreline area of Encinal Beach from the city, and its restoration project includes removing invasive ice plant that covers a significant section of the beach and replacing it with sand and native grasses and vegetation, said Sullivan, who is the project manager. The park district also plans to stabilize the shoreline and raise the height of the upper portion of the beach by four to five feet in anticipation of sea level rise from climate change.

Other upgrades include removing an old barge that is buried on one section of the shoreline. Once it’s gone, the park district plans to install riprap (large rock boulders) and smaller rocks nearer to the beach. The district will also have to remove a section of a long wooden pier that recently washed up on the beach.

Chris Duffey

Sullivan said the district also plans to remove a crumbling metal fence that extends out on the rock seawall and redo the path along the top of the seawall to make it easier for fishermen to access. In September, the park district applied for an additional $70,000 grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Those funds will supplement monies from Measures WW and AA. Measure WW is a park district bond measure approved by East Bay voters in 2008. Measure AA is a parcel tax approved by Bay Area residents in June to pay for shoreline and wetlands improvements. The park district plans to finish its restoration project by next October.

The city of Alameda is also planning several upgrades to its portion of Encinal Beach, including redoing the boat launch and building a kayak launch, said Alameda Recreation and Parks Director Amy Wooldridge. The city received a $300,000 grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation to plan its portion of the restoration of the project, Wooldridge added. The city also plans to build new larger bathrooms and an outdoor shower for beach users and to repave the parking lot. A nearby fire department training facility—where firefighters train to use the “jaws of life” on old smashed up vehicles—will move to another section of Alameda Point.

Wooldridge estimated that the city’s portion of the project will cost roughly $1.2 million, which the city may fund in the years ahead through grants and developer impact fees. Once the entire project is complete, “it’s just going to be gorgeous,” Wooldridge said. “The views out there are fantastic.”

Yes they are.


Published online on Dec. 12, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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