SANDAG receives approval for Del Mar bluffs stabilization project modifications

A Coaster train travels the tracks on the bluffs in Del Mar.

The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved several modifications to phase four of the Del Mar Bluffs Stabilization project Friday, July 10, finding them consistent with the policies of the California Coastal Management Program, according to a SANDAG news release. Modifications will include:

An increase of three feet to the height of an existing retaining wall at the base of the bluffs near 12th Street

To install four additional soldier piles, or support columns, along the upper bluffs near 12th Street

To repair a small upper bluff failure near 7th Street

Combined with previously planned improvements, the new work will further stabilize the Del Mar bluffs, which is a critical segment of the Los Angeles-San Luis Obispo-San Diego (LOSSAN) rail corridor.

“The California Coastal Commission’s decision today will help ensure continued reliability for our county’s major rail corridor, which is crucial for goods movement, commuters, and supporting our nation’s military,” said SANDAG Chair and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus. “It is critical that we continue to reinforce this section of track in Del Mar, while exploring alternatives to move the tracks completely off the bluffs.”

Phase four work is currently underway to install support columns to stabilize localized areas and seawalls, construct a drainage channel on top of the bluffs, and repair concrete channels and storm drain outfalls. Construction on this phase began in the spring and is expected to be complete later this year.

After a series of bluff erosion episodes in 2019, California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) Secretary David Kim established a coalition of stakeholders to address the short-term stabilization efforts, a long-term vision to move the tracks entirely off the bluffs, and ways to improve the capacity, speed, and safety of the San Diego coastal rail corridor. The working group is composed of local, state, and federal leaders, all of whom have been advocating for additional state and federal funding.

“The City of Del Mar recognizes the stabilization efforts are necessary and looks forward to working with SANDAG and all project partners on a future relocation of rail off of the bluffs,” said City of Del Mar Mayor Ellie Haviland. “Secretary Kim’s working group has brought the best and the brightest together to focus on the long- and short-term needs of the bluffs, and we’re making significant strides.”

This summer, SANDAG will seek nearly $36 million from the state’s SB 1 Trade Corridor Enhancement Program to complete construction of the fifth phase of bluff stabilization, which will include the installation of additional support columns along the bluffs, improved drainage infrastructure, and new retaining walls.

SANDAG was awarded $5 million from CalSTA and $11.6 million from the United States Department of Transportation earlier this year for future stabilization efforts. CalSTA develops and coordinates state transportation policies and programs to meet safety, mobility, and air quality objectives.

Public works construction activities are considered essential. Construction workers are following precautionary health and safety measures. SANDAG continues to monitor developments and follow all health guidance and orders, according to the news release.

To learn more, visit Sign-up for email notifications at or call (858) 549-RAIL. — SANDAG news release