California WaterfrontAge: Beginning.

by trenzpruca

California WaterfrontAge was a magazine first published by California’s  State Coastal Conservancy about 40 years ago during the time I served as director of the then-new agency. The purpose of the magazine was to introduce the general public to the benefits of reclaiming for the public the nation’s urban waterfronts that forty years ago had been in a sad state of decline. New approaches toward to reverse that decay recently had been initiated in several of the nation’s cities and the State Coastal Conservancy just had been created to provide the leadership for these endeavors in California   In a prior post in Urban Edginess, I reproduced an article I had written in California WaterfrontAge about some of these projects and programs. The following is my introductory column to the first issue of that magazine.

At the beginning of any new endev­or, It Is appropriate to set out Its goals and ambitions. What we in the Conservancy hope to accomplish with the publication of this magazine is a focusing of attention upon the public benefits of sound innovative design in the renewal of our urban waterfront resources.

The name of this magazine-California WaterfrontAge-was deliberately chosen to highlight that this indeed is the “waterfront age.” After a tremendous initial growth followed by a long, slow decline, the waterfronts of our nation are now experiencing profound changes and revitalization. In almost every city with a waterfront, the old industrial and commercial uses are giving way to new recreational and living environments.

In Baltimore, New York, San Francisco, and a host of other cities, new commercial tourist attractions have either sprung up or are planned. “Festival Market Places” they are often called, and indeed they are. In other cities, parks and attractions along the waterfront designed to delight both resident and visitor have flourished. In San Antonio and Denver, for example, once-neglected riverways have been transformed into ribbons of parks and trails winding their way through the heart of the city.

San Antonio Riverwalk 2

San Antonio Riverwalk.

In creating the “Urban ‘Waterfront Restoration Act of 1981,” the California state legislature stated: California’s urban waterfronts, being often the first part of an urban area to develop and. thus. the first to decay. are in need of restoration in order to be the vital economic and cultural component of the community which they once were.

A state agency, the State Coastal Conservancy, was designated as the agency to coordinate the activities of all other state agencies and all federal agencies that have programs affecting California’s urban waterfronts in order to increase the efficiency and minimize duplication of those programs.” By encouraging sound planning and design and awarding grants for the development of accessways, piers, and other amenities, the

Conservancy has become a major influence in California’s changing urban waterfront scene. More recently the Conservancy, along with the new California Urban Waterfront Area Restoration Financing Authority, has been authorized to provide $650 million in revenue bonds for the restoration of California’s urban waterfronts.

Over $15 million in grants in more than twenty jurisdictions have been awarded by the Conservancy for projects with a direct value of over S100 million and indirect benefits amounting to many times more.

In all cases, the Conservancy has sought to promote waterfront designs which were simple and intuitively understandable, economically feasible. easily accessible. Visually pleasing, and encouraging to those uses dependent upon a location near the water.

First among these values is accessibility. People will travel farther to get to the shore or to a beach than to other recreational destinations. The accommodation of this attraction is a major goal of urban shoreline planning. In the urban waterfront more than anywhere else, the variety of uses, as well as their availability, are the standard against which success must be measured.


Santa Monica Pier (A State Coastal Conservancy Project).

In Long Beach. the vast range of shorefront uses available to almost everyone more than offsets the clumsy grandiosity of the design. That great accessibility was due in large part to the fortunate coming together of a sensitive city planning director and ‘a state regulatory agency-the California Coastal Commission-determined to require maximum public access.


Long Beach.

It is the goal of this magazine to highlight those projects and techniques throughout the West which demonstrate these design goals, and which present a vision of the usefulness of urban waterfront restoration and the most effective strategies for achieving it. This column is the first of a series. In future issues, we will attempt to set out some general standards for urban waterfront improvement, as well as offer critiques of specific waterfront programs past and present. We hope you enjoy
California WaterfrontAge!


Arcata Marsh (A State Coastal Conservancy Project).


Note: This entire issue of California WaterfrontAge can be found at: