Santa Monica’s beaches, famed as the birthplace of the mid-20th-century fitness boom, have been as intentionally sculpted as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pecs at the peak of his beachside bodybuilding career. In 1934, the same year that a New Deal program brought fitness equipment to what would become Muscle Beach, the city of Santa Monica installed an offshore breakwater that captured sediment and dramatically widened those beaches by hundreds of feet.
Today, with sea level rise and erosion threatening to eat away at the sandy expanses and damage city infrastructure, Santa Monica is testing a softer intervention. In a partnership with the nonprofit Bay Foundation, 3 acres of the beach’s north end have been seeded with native California dune plants. If the pilot works as planned, over time hummocks of sand will build up around them, providing natural protection to the parking lots, bath houses and homes inland….