Pounding waves uncover SF Ocean Beach's hidden history

- Pounding waves are revealing parts of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach that haven’t been seen in decades and some of the relics date back 100 years.

The storm driven seas that have eroded San Francisco's Ocean Beach all winter long recently uncovered an old stone stairway, a seawall and part of an old tunnel that once ran under the Great Highway.
   
It's not the first time, the high waves have revealed such hidden history, but it is fairly rare and has sometimes shown much more.

"One time I saw the wreckage of the ship that I haven't seen before, just remaining like the large beams," said Diana Kaytun, a nearby San Francisco resident.

Another long-time area resident had never seen the seawall.

"Things that were not here before, you know, that were under the sand," says San Francisco resident Helber Gonzalves.
   
But, make no mistake; one must be very careful at the foot of Taraval Street. The stairway is uneven, unstable and full of sharp, rusty metal.

Just as concerning are the beach’s sneaker waves. The city replenishes eroded sand here annually, but rising sea level seems to be doing more damage.

"The erosion is working and it seems to be working a lot quicker nowadays, but then again, in time things erode," said resident Rick Jeremi.

Erosion is a fact of life out here and always has been, 20,000 years ago, the West Coast was 27 miles further west in a place now known as the Farallon Islands.

"Once a year there's maintenance program but I think they need to do it more often," said Kaytun.
   
At the Western Neighborhoods Project, staffers are putting 100,000 historic photos online. Quite a few are of Ocean Beach, taken when the recently uncovered steps were built in the late 1920's and the seawall built in the early 1940s.

"We've seen in our historic pictures, tons of different things popping up in the sand," said David Gallagher a founder of the Western Neighborhoods Project.
   
The most unusual were put there during World War II when construction materials, needed for war, were not available.

"At the time, they were dismantling the cemeteries that were right up the street here and they asked for tombstones.  And, that's what they had; that's what they dumped on the beach," said Gallagher.

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