Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project

Santa Monica Beach Restoration Overview

The Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project of approximately three acres aims to return a healthy and beautiful ecosystem to this beach, which in turn, will address climate change issues for both humans and wildlife. The project will evaluate increased protection for our coastal infrastructure and residences from sea level rise and erosion, while also providing a vital refuge for invertebrates, birds, and rare coastal vegetation species. It will also serve as a model for the region, showing that heavy recreational use of beaches and meaningful habitat restoration are both possible!

“Your presentation for the proposed natural area on the Santa Monica beach was very nice. I wish it was a bigger project ending in a ribbon of natural plants and terrain all along the beach.”

-Dr. Devgan; local homeowner

This pilot project used low-lying sand fencing and native plant seeds installed in December 2016 to restore a highly impacted beach system with the goal of bringing back a diverse, endemic-rich, coastal plant and wildlife community which has been almost completely eliminated from the Los Angeles region. We believe that the iconic beaches of Santa Monica are a beautiful and important location to try out this restoration project, which utilizes existing sand to transform a portion of the beach into a sustainable coastal strand and foredune habitat complex resilient to sea level rise and wave erosion.

This demonstration site will provide not only a scientific basis to develop guidelines and protocols but an integrated, locally-based program for increasing the usefulness of natural environments in a developed area. It will evaluate “soft” low-cost natural shore protection from sea-level rise and storms while providing public benefits and enhancing natural resource values.

Sand Verbena (Abronia maritima) is one of the plants that can be seen in the restoration site.


Beach Evening Primrose (Camissoniopis cheiranthifolia) is another of the flowering plants that would add color to the landscape.

Beach Evening Primrose (Camissoniopis cheiranthifolia) is another of the flowering plants that add color to the landscape.

An artistic rendering of how the site may look several years post-restoration.


Design aspects feature curved, flowing, low-lying fence lines, a path through the restoration area, and an unenclosed perimeter along the water’s edge.  Many of these design components were incorporated to minimize disturbance, and even enhance your interaction with the beach.  The site allows visitors to continue to recreate as well as enjoy the local native flora and fauna that are absent along the groomed beaches of the Santa Monica Bay.

Other public benefits include:

  • Enhancing a developed coastline
  • Familiarizing residents, especially children, with a healthy, natural landscape
  • Promoting tourism based on environmental values through unique aesthetics and bird watching opportunities
  • Educational opportunities including native plants and healthy beach management
  • Understanding a ‘softscape’ climate change protection project

All of these benefits are expected while having low-to-no impact on existing recreational uses of the beach.

“The restoration project is an important and innovative project that demonstrates a nature based adaptation approach to sea level rise for Santa Monica Bay’s beaches. The beaches of this region are an important natural resource that also serve as barriers to encroaching seas. Decision makers need to carefully plan for adaptation strategies that foster resilience and ensure vibrant coastal communities.”

– Phyllis Grifman; Associate Director, Sea Grant Program USC

Small dune hummocks are slowly forming, and are expected to be about 1 to 3 feet tall. The restoration site was seeded with native southern California coastal beach species including beautiful flowering sand verbena and beach evening primrose (pictured to the left). The plant palette also included sea scale and beach bur, both of which are low-profile and help form miniature sand dunes. The presence of these vegetated small dune hummocks will allow for invertebrates and local shorebirds to make use of this previously uninhabitable space. Similar beach restorations have been successfully conducted along the California coastline, such as Surfers Point in Ventura.

Project monitoring and maintenance is ongoing, and public reports are available on TBF’s Technical Reports page. This restoration project will provide not only a visibly pleasing landscape and habitat, but also an effective and inexpensive means of reducing storm and sea level rise damage.

Before and After Artistic Site Renderings


“Unique plants and animals thrive between sea and land in beach ecosystems. Native wildflowers provide beauty for beach-goers and habitat for nature.”

– Karen Martin, PhD; Pepperdine University


Below are ‘before’ and ‘after’ artistic design renderings to help visualize what the site could look like in several years.  As you can see, the design is very low-profile and it’s curved edges, walking path, and unenclosed segment along the water’s edge allows it to maintain a welcoming feel, and enhance recreational opportunities.


Before and after view of the restoration site from the central walking path, facing northwest with the Malibu coastline in the background.



Before and after view of the restoration site from the bike path, facing south. There is minimal change in view from this perspective.

Additional artistic renderings of the restoration site were developed by Mia Lehrer & Associates. Please feel free to view or download them below:


 SaMo Image 3


Aerial View Site


Frequently Asked Questions and Additional Resources

Education and volunteer programs will be incorporated with the pilot project and will include opportunities for field trips, nature walks, and volunteer planting and clean up days. Instilling a sense of appreciation for the site will be an important component towards stewardship.

If you have any questions regarding this project, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions, then contact if your inquiry is not listed.

Want to help? If you would like to be involved when volunteer opportunities arise, please sign up for our newsletter to stay informed.

For more detailed information regarding the methodology used for project implementation and details on the monitoring plan please refer to the Beach Restoration Proposal.