Portion of San Francisco's Great Hwy closed for sand removal

June 13, 2013 5:28:12 PM PDT
San Francisco's Great Highway is closed in both directions from Sloat Boulevard to Lincoln Way until sometime next week. The reason is a move made by the city every year in the ongoing battle to keep moving sands off a major thoroughfare.

You're watching a fight between man and nature -- bulldozers moving the sand at Ocean Beach towards the shore to keep it from blowing onto the Great Highway. Eventually gusty winds always show who's boss, as neighborhood old timers will tell you.

"It's a losing battle of course, as we all know," resident Frank Gonzales said. "But they keep trying. Puts people to work, right?"

This is how it looks during the spring months, with the wind in a frenzy. The Great Highway was built on top of sand dunes back in 1929, so what happens is not a surprise.

Homeowners who live across from the Great Highway have to deal with the sand. But for their predecessors, this was real beachfront property.

Take a look at these photos from the 1940s, when sand dunes drifted towards doorsteps. Back then people complained, as they do now, and the city responded.

These days it's not cheap. Just under $300,000 a year for a futile effort the Department of Public Works compares to Greek mythology.

"Are you familiar with Sisyphus," asked Rachel Gordon with SF's Department of Public Works. "Pushing the big boulder up the mountain and when it gets almost to the top, it falls down and you start up again. That's what this sand cleanup is a lot of the time."

Long term solutions could include fencing or more plants to try to trap the sand. Even giving in and letting nature reclaim part of the Great Highway. But for now, this yearly temporary solution is all they've got.


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