The Best and Worst beaches throughout California

Heal the Bay's 13th annual Beach Report Card assigns an A-F grade to California beaches.

provided by Heal the Bay

eal the Bay released its 2002-2003 annual Beach Report Card last month, assigning an “A” to “F” letter grade to more than 300 California beaches based on their level of bacterial pollution. The Beach Report Card, a comprehensive evaluation of coastal water quality in California, is based on both daily and weekly samples gathered at beaches from Sonoma County to the Mexican border.

    By assessing fecal bacteria levels, and making this information available to the public, the Beach Report Card is designed to protect the public health of the more than 100 million people who visit California's beaches. Local health agencies complete routine monitoring of the beaches and analyze water samples for bacteria that indicate pollution from numerous sources, including fecal waste. Beach Report Card weekly and annual updates are available at www.heal

    A poor grade means beachgoers who visit these beaches face a higher risk of contracting illnesses, such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and skin rashes, than swimmers at cleaner beaches.

    “Heal the Bay is pleased that dry weather water quality results were generally positive this year, in part because of runoff diversions and other projects that minimize urban runoff,” said Heal the Bay Executive Director Dr. Mark Gold. “Of all the water quality monitoring locations throughout the state, 85 percent received good to excellent grades in dry weather, resulting in the best year-to-date for California beaches. Over the years, we've found that in dry weather most beaches get good grades.”

    Heal the Bay also studied the impact a beach's location has on water quality. In Southern California, 88 percent of “open ocean beaches” received “A” grades in dry weather, compared to only 44 percent of beaches in enclosed bays, harbors, or marinas, and 71 percent of beaches near a storm drain.

    “There are some beaches, predominately those in enclosed areas or adjacent to storm drains or creeks, that even in dry weather consistently get poor grades,” said Dr. Gold. “Fortunately, despite the state's economic slowdown, Governor Gray Davis, Assemblymember Fran Pavley, and California voters continue to make beach water quality at these problem beaches a priority for the state.

    “As we've learned, rain rinses pollution off the streets and into the gutter, where it flushes directly to the ocean. Most beaches get poor grades in wet weather because not enough has been done statewide to reduce this problem. This year, for example, 63 percent of the beaches monitored in wet weather got 'F' grades.”

    Some of the beaches that made Heal the Bay's Beach Bummers list are also some of the most popular, including East Beach at Mission Creek in Santa Barbara County, Surfrider Beach in Los Angeles County, Cabrillo Beach (harborside) in Los Angeles County, Capitola Beach in Santa Cruz County, and Doheny Beach in Orange County. All but two of the statewide finalists are in Southern California.

    “The public deserves access to the water quality information that will help them make informed decisions about where to take their families swimming,” said Dr. Aliza Lifshitz, physician and author. “Heal the Bay's Beach Report Card helps families understand which beaches they can visit without fear of contracting the stomach flu, a respiratory infection, or worse.”

“The Beach Bummers”

    Twenty beaches statewide received an “F” grade in the 2002-2003 Beach Report Card. The ten worst “Beach Bummers” in California are:

1. Doheny Beach (Orange County)
2. Mission Bay (San Diego County)
3. Pacific Beach at P.B Point (San Diego County)
4. Baby Beach at Dana Point Harbor (Orange County)
5. Channel Island Harbor, Hobie Beach at Lakeshore Dr. (Ventura County)
6. Campbell Cove State Park Beach at Bodega Bay (Sonoma County)
7. Cabrillo Beach, harborside at lifeguard tower (Los Angeles County)
8. Capitola Beach, west of jetty (Santa Cruz County)
9. East Beach at Mission Creek (Santa Barbara County)
10. Surfrider Beach, Malibu (LA County)

Regional Results

    The most polluted beaches this year in San Diego County during dry weather are:

  • Mission Bay, Visitors Center, projection of Clairemont Dr. - (F)
  • San Diego Bay, Shelter Island at Shoreline Park Beach. - (F)
  • Tijuana Slough NWR at Tijuana River. - (F)
  • Pacific Point - (F)
  • Ocean Beach at Dan Diego River (Dog Beach) - (C)

    In San Diego County, 12 out of 29 monitored beaches (41%) received an “A” grade this year in dry weather, while 4 out of 29 (14%) received an “F” grade.

    Heal the Bay, founded in 1985, is dedicated to making Santa Monica Bay and Southern California coastal waters safe and healthy again for people and marine life. It is one of the largest nonprofit environmental organizations in Los Angeles County, with more than 10,000 members. The organization, funded by government grants, corporate sponsorships and member donations, focuses on education, outreach, research and advocacy and annually produces programs and events, including Adopt-A-Beach, Bay Days, the Beach Report Card and Coastal Cleanup Day. Beach Report Card weekly and annual updates are available at