“I think with every coastal road in California, you’re going have to think about relocating it,” said Gary Griggs, an earth sciences professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
West Cliff Drive, which sits on an elevated bluff, hugs the coast near Santa Cruz’s 111-year-old boardwalk en route to a nature reserve thick with eucalyptus. The street’s beach houses and towering villas are regularly valued beyond $2m, with some vacant plots of land fetching $1m.
“Coastal property values are way inflated, factoring in all the risk involved,” Griggs said. “West Cliff Drive is the place to be now; lots of people who made money in Silicon Valley have moved there.”
Santa Cruz sits on the northern lip of Monterey Bay, which is losing several feet of beach a year. Sections of the cliffs beneath West Cliff Drive are abutted by piles of rocks, known as riprap, placed as a last-ditch attempt to stem erosion.