El Niño Accelerating Bay Area Beach Erosion

A Pacifica business owner tells NBC Bay Area he's lost 12 feet of his property so far this winter.

Each El Niño system that moves through the Bay Area represents an uncertain future for some people living along the coast in Pacifica, where residents say they've noticed a huge difference in the shoreline this winter.

Typical erosion rates could double during an active El Niño year, coastal experts warn.

For the last 30 years, Dan Keller says he has watched the ocean slowly chip away at his beach front property. "We lose about a foot a year," Keller said. So far this winter? "I've lost 12 feet."

Keller is retired. He leases his property to Simon Dimapasoc, who says he's losing money on his U-Haul rental business every time a storm rolls in.

"When El Niño hits, you know we will lose a lot of property," Dimapasoc said.

With each piece of land that falls into the ocean, there goes a secure parking space for a moving truck.

"I don't want to find the trucks on the beach or tell the customers they are floating in the ocean," Dimapasoc said.

The expedited erosion rate during an El Niño year is "due to bigger water levels, bigger waves" and the sudden change in storm tracks that bring us larger swells," said Bob Battalio, chief engineer at Environmental Science Associates, a consultancy based in San Francisco.

Battalio says human-made sand banks, like one built at Ocean Beach, can offer a temporary barrier from the ocean, but long-term, he says it's not sustainable to have homes and businesses in the ocean's path.

For now, many in Pacifica are left hoping their property is spared by the ocean.

"You can't change it," Keller said. "What are you going to do? Live with it."

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