Save or Print this Page

Coastal Erosion

A house with only half a foundation
Source: Mark Wolfe/FEMA

The California coast, while a world-famous scenic resource, is potentially vulnerable to coastal bluff retreat, bluff-top erosion, gullying, and beach erosion, all of which are generally considered geologic hazards. Coastal bluffs can be subject to rapid landscape change through undercutting and slope collapse, erosion and cliff retreat. Coastal erosion occurs as a result of natural processes such as tides and currents, long-shore drift, storm surge, sea level rise, and earthquakes. Erosion rates depend on the underlying geologic materials and their susceptibility to the weathering effects of gravity, wind, and water (including rain and waves).

Coastal erosion is not among the natural hazards required for real estate disclosure by the State of California. However, local officials may consider it to be a factor in deciding a building permit application for coastal parcels and may require appropriate steps to mitigate this hazard, which could affect project cost, permit approval and, ultimately, land use. Many cities and counties along the California coast include a map of coastal bluff or erosion hazards in their General Plan Safety Element, and a prospective buyer may consider this to be material if the sale property is located in the locally mapped zone.