A true Conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

– James John Audubon

Program EIR for the updated Los Peñasquitos Lagoon Enhancement Plan

A program-level Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been prepared for the updated Los Peñasquitos Lagoon Enhancement Plan (Lagoon Enhancement Plan) for compliance under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  The EIR is the first step in environmental review of key project concepts identified in the Lagoon Enhancement Plan and provides preliminary impact analysis, development of impact avoidance strategies, and identification of mitigation measures where impacts cannot be avoided.  With certification under CEQA expected by the end of 2020, this EIR will serve as a framework to guide and expedite project-level design and environmental review for large-scale restoration and enhancement of the Lagoon’s native habitats, as well as improvements to public access and vector management.

A Notice of Availability (NOA) and the Draft EIR are currently available for public review and comment for a 45-day period.  Please look at the NOA for pertinent information that includes: identification of the Lead Agency, start and end dates of the public comment period, how and where to submit comments, and the date/time for a virtual public meeting to present the EIR and address questions related to the EIR and CEQA process.  Once comments are received, a Final EIR will be prepared, completed and certified with the State of California.

An open meeting will be held via Zoom on December 12 from 10:00 am – 11:30 pm to provide members of the public an opportunity to get a better understanding of the Draft Los Peñasquitos Lagoon Program EIR during the comment period that ends December 28, 2020.  A presentation will be given that will provide a summary of the project background, proposed project, summary of impact threshold analysis, how to submit formal comments and expected release of the of the Final EIR.   Please note that formal comments will not be taken at this meeting and must be submitted directly to California State Parks (Lead Agency) in writing as described in the NOA (see previous paragraph).  Meeting agenda with Zoom information can be downloaded by clicking the following link:  PEIR Public Meeting Agenda (12.12.2020)

Managed Retreat of the North Beach Parking Lot


California State Parks (landowner), Los Peñsaquitos Lagoon Foundation (grant recipient), State Coastal Conservancy (funding entity), and GHD (coastal engineering firm).


Managed retreat of the North Beach Parking Lot was identified as a priority project in the recently updated Los Peñasquitos Lagoon Enhancement Plan.  Funded through a Climate Ready Grant, the project will look to maximize the potential of the North Beach Parking Lot through a collaborative engagement process to identify 3 different feasible alternatives for redesigning, and potentially, relocating the parking lot and reimagining how the site could be utilized while being resilient to the impacts of climate change that includes sea level rise.  Stakeholder outreach will occur through a series of virtual public workshops, online surveys and direct engagement to help inform the design of the alternatives and provide insight with regard to user groups preferences and priorities.


Currently, the North Beach Parking Lot provides access to the northern portion of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve including Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, Torrey Pines State Beach and regional trail networks that include the California Coastal Trail and Trans County Trail. However, beach access is vulnerable to sea level rise and needs to be redesigned. Redesign may include managed retreat that includes modifications to the existing beach access points and reconfiguring or relocating critical infrastructure and amenities to preserve their public use while reducing maintenance and maximizing ecological and community benefits.  The redesign or relocation of the North Beach Parking Lot in the context of a larger multi-beneficial project would ensure continued access to these natural areas for the public that includes nearby residents and surrounding low-income communities. The project partners will explore how to maximize the co-benefits this valuable space could provide, including ecological, educational, and recreational opportunities.

In addition to resilience to sea level rise there are other key climate change concerns including vector control, storm water runoff and improved sewage management. Currently, freshwater inputs from the lot and poor circulation upstream of McGonigle Road due to an obstructed culvert have resulted in vector control issues that threaten park visitors and nearby residents due to mosquitos that can transmit brain encephalitis, such as West Nile virus, to human hosts within a 2-mile radius of the Lagoon.  Climate change will most likely exacerbate the current issue and potentially introduce additional vector-borne illness that include Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses to areas surrounding the Lagoon if effective vector management is not supported through improvements to the infrastructure that contribute to vector breeding due to freshwater inputs and ponded water.  The Feasibility Study will look to improve flows under McGonigle Road through design elements that would include replacing the damaged culvert or elevating the roadway on a short bridge span to improve wildlife movement.  Storm water inputs from the parking lot impact the Lagoon’s water quality as untreated runoff carries pollutants from the parking lot’s hardscape into the lagoon waters.  Changes in precipitation patterns resulting from climate change will only exacerbate water quality issues as we experience more extreme and intense storms.  The Feasibility Study will address storm water management needs by evaluating modern approaches that include bioswales and other green methods of onsite detention and treatment to reduce or eliminate direct discharges to the Lagoon. Located near the beach entry point, the bathroom facilities are vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding.   The proposed project will develop and assess alternatives to relocate and modernize the bathroom and other infrastructure components with elements that include “low-flow” toilets, solar panels and improved sewage collection and treatment.


The Project will provide the following multiple benefits:

  • Provides an example to coastal planners and state agencies of managed retreat using the living shoreline approach and other nature-based methods for climate change adaptations in coastal areas with high volumes of public use.
  • Supports applied science efforts as they relate to climate change modeling and adaptation by integrating climate science, engineering and ecology with on the ground habitat restoration and construction of North Lot improvements and related facilities.
  • Enhanced accessibility to Los Peñasquitos Lagoon and Torrey Pines State Beach through improved connections to active transportation routes (vehicular, bike and pedestrian).
  • Increased educational and interpretive opportunities to support coastal stewardship with outreach focused on schools within the watershed, especially those in disadvantaged communities.
  • Recovery, protection and preservation of habitats native and historic to Los Peñasquitos Lagoon in areas that are currently hardscape and public facilities (e.g., bathrooms).
  • Supports resiliency of listed birds and special status plants species by expanding essential sensitive habitat areas and buffer zones adjacent to transportation infrastructure and other urban developments.
  • Improved irrigation runoff, storm water and sewage management by relocating outdated facilities and incorporating nature-based approaches such as bioswales and rain barrels.
  • Supports vector management and native salt marsh habitats through improved conveyance of tidal waters under McGonigle Road.
  • Potential creation of a wildlife corridor under McGonigle Road to improve accessibility and safety for wildlife moving east and west of this elevated roadway.
  • Replacing hardscaped areas with native vegetation to promote carbon sequestration and heat reduction in urban areas.
  • Enhanced public access through improved connectivity with beach access points and established trails, along with improved amenities (bathrooms, educational facilities).
  • Enhanced public safety through establishment of supporting facilities for CSP staff that include first responders (lifeguards and rangers) and maintenance staff.


A series of workshops will be held to solicit input from a variety of stakeholder groups as well as individual members of the public to provide insight into the perspectives and priorities of different user groups.  This is being done early in the planning process to better inform the design and shape of the project and to identify opportunities to deliver a product that provides multiple benefits.

Workshop 1 was held on February 17, 2021 and provided an overview of the project and allow attendees to answer a series of polling questions to better understand how they use the North Beach Parking Lot and what additional amenities and services could be included in the future.  If you were unable to attend the first workshop, you can view and/or download the presentation by clicking here and then provide your input on the polling questions by clicking here.

Workshop 2 was held on March 30, 2021 where participants were presented draft concept design alternatives for each of the three approaches for managed retreat of the North Beach Parking Lot:  1) Reducing the size of the existing parking lot with improvements; 2) Abandoning the current location of the parking lot and relocating it to an upland area within Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve; or 3) Abandoning the current location of the parking lot and relocating it to an offsite location.  Participants worked in breakout groups where they reviewed each draft concept design alternative and discussed the key advantages and disadvantages of each as they relate to access, habitat, available parking, view corridors, protection from sea level rise and flooding, as well as other criteria.  Using an online poll, workshop participants were then asked to select up to 2 of the draft concept design alternatives for managed retreat of the North Beach Parking Lot for further development.  If you were unable to attend the second workshop, you can view and/or download the presentation by clicking here and then provide your input on the polling questions by clicking here.  Your input is valuable and will help inform the final design of the North Beach Parking Lot at Torrey Pines State Beach so please let us know what you want!

Workshop 3 was held on January 10, 2023 to provide participants an update on project progress that included the results of online public surveys regarding the preferred approach for the managed retreat of the North Beach Parking Lot and draft Design Concepts for the “Reduced Footprint” Approach.  Other topics covered at this workshop were the results of a preliminary Parking Demand Study for both street and off-street parking and results of a Feasibility Study conducted to analyze and rank three Design Concepts to select the preferred alternative.  If you were unable to attend the third workshop, you can view and/or download the presentation by clicking here and the Feasibility Study by clicking here.  Your input is valuable and will help inform the final design of the North Beach Parking Lot at Torrey Pines State Beach so stay posted for further stakeholder engagement opportunities!

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  • Los Peñasquitos Lagoon is a dedicated State Marsh Natural Preserve, affording it the highest level of protection within California.
  • Los Peñasquitos Lagoon is a 565-acre coastal estuary that evolved from a large, depositional river valley with fringing marsh. The Lagoon receives drainage from an approximately 59,212-acre watershed comprised of three primary sub-drainages: Carmel Valley, Los Peñasquitos Canyon and Carroll Canyon.
  • Los Peñasquitos Lagoon and its adjacent uplands are home to at least 48 sensitive species that include 35 plants, 1 insect, 5 reptiles, and 7 birds.
  • Los Peñasquitos Lagoon also serves as an important refuge for migratory birds using the Pacific Flyway and is the closest coastal estuary providing essential fish habitat to support the La Jolla State Marine Conservation Area (ASBS #29) and San Diego-Scripps State Marine Conservation Area (ASBS #31) located just south of the Lagoon.

Public Workshops - Managed Retreat of the North Beach Parking Lot