Bluffs Stabilization: Hobson’s Choice

I believe the SANDAG/Coastal Commission approval of a plan for track protection by armoring the Del Mar bluffs is one of the most consequential changes Del Mar has ever experienced. We have been presented with two alternatives (Door A and Door B). The original proposal (Door A) called for a major decapitation of the bluff top along with significant armoring—this raised serious concerns. More recently, we were presented with a “compromise three legged stool” (Door B) proposal which called for sea walls on the beach at the toe of the bluffs, soldier piles with tie backs at the top, and drainage improvements to reduce water runoff. Again serious objections were raised but the Coastal Commission decided to choose Door B.


According to Wikipedia a dilemma is a choice between two or more options, neither of which is attractive.


Hobson’s Choice is often used to describe an illusion of choice, meaning there is only one choice.


Choosing between two terrible ways to deface our bluffs seems like a dilemma, but in reality it is a Hobson’s Choice because we are only given one choice: to deface the bluff, one undesirable way or another– not whether or not to deface the bluff. The only way to get a real alternative is to decide whether to move the tracks or deface the bluff. This is why elected officials are paid the big bucks (in our situation only four Council Members had the courage to address the issue — Druker found a way to duck out). The central mission of the Coastal Commission is to protect the natural coast, not the tracks.


The reality is that our community is very united in our desire to protect the bluffs and move the tracks so that’s where our energy should go. Of course we have no choice but to accept Plan B to try to avoid a tragic train catastrophe, but where is the regional sense of urgency this issue deserves? How much more multi-million dollar patching will our bluffs suffer until we get to the thirteen year target for track relocation? Yes, we are promised that one day all of these patches will be removed and our magnificent bluffs will be restored. Sure! We have known for decades that the tracks are perilous.


Both tunneling and realignment along I-5 should be pursued on extreme time lines, as well as funding sources from all interests including the freight industry and the industrial military complex.


Mother Nature is watching us!

A picture from the SANDAG presentation to City Council on September 20, 2021 showing a cross section of the track and adjoining bluffs near 9th Street, with the removal of the top of the bluff indicated by the darker colored “grading option.” R/W stands for the NCTD right-of-way. Note: In the end the “decapitation” plan was not chosen by the Coastal Commission.