San Diego Beach Cliff Collapses

If you’ve ever been to San Diego county, you likely know something of the history of San Diego beach cliff collapses.

While not the most cheerful of subject, these collapses are unfortunately common in the San Diego area.

Let’s take a look at these events, what caused them, and the consequences of the natural disasters. 

What Causes San Diego Beach Collapses?

It’s not uncommon to visit San Diego and be asked to stay close to the water.

Beach cliff collapses are quite common and are caused by natural conditions. 

Why are San Diego beach cliff collapses so commonplace? Well, cliffs near coastal areas do not erode consistently.

Because coastal cliffs are formed by many types of rock and sediment, some will wear down more quickly than others.

Sand and clay, in particular, are susceptible to this erosion. 

Erosion takes many forms. Some rock structures will become arcs or caves.

Others will become isolated columns of rock known as stacks. Others, of course, will simply crumble in a type of a rockslide. 

Of these, one of the most dangerous types of erosion is the latter.

People who are nearby to a cliff when it collapses can be seriously injured or even killed.

Interested to learn more about the history of San Diego beach cliff collapses?

Let’s explore some of the most notable of these events. 

Del Mar, California

On Sunday, February 28, 2021 a bluff in Del Mar, California collapsed.

In this particular event, there were no reported injuries. The beach was not particularly busy when the cliff collapsed at around 10 in the morning.

Police were called to the scene with a canine team, and no one was discovered to have been trapped beneath the rocks. 

Torrey Pines State Beach, California

On New Year’s Eve in 2020, another substantial collapse took place at Torrey Pines State Beach.

As with the Del Mar collapse, no one is thought to have been injured in this event.

However, officials who assessed the scene determined that the debris would not wash away for a week or more. 

As a result of this collapse, visitors to Torrey Pines were encouraged to walk close to the shoreline.

Falling rock remained a possibility for several weeks, and staying close to the water would help to mitigate injury to visitors. 

Leucadia, California

Unfortunately, not all San Diego beach cliff collapses are victimless.

On August 2, 2019, a multi-ton portion of a cliff in Leucadia, California collapsed onto three women beneath.

The event took place, specifically, at Grandview Beach.

Five victims were pulled from the resulting rubble, and one was pronounced dead on the scene.

Unfortunately, two other victims were listed in critical condition at the hospital and died from their injuries.

One victim was treated at the scene and the fifth later recovered from the event. 

The resulting pile of rock measured approximately 25 feet by 30 feet. Search and rescue dogs were brought to the scene but indicated no sign of any other victims in the rubble. 

La Jolla, California

In September of 2015, a San Diego area cliff collapsed in part due to human negligence.

At around 1:30 in the afternoon on September 11, a large section of sea bluff collapsed onto the ground below.

Unfortunately, this collapse could have perhaps been prevented. 

Real estate professionals for a house on the 400 block of Sea Ridge Drive in La Jolla failed to turn off the water to the home’s pool. The result was a 50 foot by 50 foot area that was sectioned off by officials. 

A family was vacationing in the home at the time of the cliff collapse, but no one was injured in the incident. 

Black Beach, California

Also near Torrey Pines, a San Diego beach cliff collapsed in July of 2010.

The area is well-known for its unstable topography, yet visitors flock to the area for its incredible scenery and world-class surfing. 

Unfortunately, a 57-year-old man was killed by falling boulders at the park.

He’d stopped at the foot of the cliff to remove his shoes and was struck by a falling section of the cliff.

The beach was temporarily closed, but was soon reopened to visitors.

The state reserve is host to approximately 3 million visitors each year. 

Encinitas, California

On January 16, 2000, Encinitas resident Rebecca Kowalczyk fell to her death in Encinitas.

Notoriously unstable, the cliff collapsed on the 30-year-old woman, killing her at the scene. 

Similarly, in 2017 a woman was looking over the edge of a cliff in Santa Cruz County.

The rock couldn’t hold her weight, and she fell to her death when the ground gave way. 

As you can see, Encinitas is a notoriously dangerous spot, and the ground is quite unstable around the cliff’s edge.

It doesn’t take a foolish mishap to cause an accident; rather, the ground is just naturally weaker at the cliffs and an accident can happen at any time. 

Beach Cliff Collapses in the United States

The west coast is known for its gorgeous rocky cliffs along clear blue beaches.

That’s why San Diego beach cliff collapses are so commonly reported.

However, these land- and rockslides aren’t unique to the west coast. 

New England’s rocky coastline is also susceptible to cliff collapses.

Even the Great Lakes are the sites of many of these events. Put simply, the land near any major body of water is naturally unstable.

High winds, striated rock bands, and other natural factors that cause erosion make beach-side cliffs weak and prone to collapse. 

Summary: Cliff Collapses in San Diego County and Elsewhere

San Diego is well-known for its beach cliff collapses, and many unfortunate victims have been seriously hurt or even killed in these events.

The natural weakness of this topography is usually due to the degradation of the land by natural causes, but human error can sometimes play a part as well. 

No matter what part of the country you’re in, exercise caution when visiting beach cliffs and bluffs.

Follow local guidance regarding your behavior at these sites, and always be mindful of your surroundings.