He said he has spent years standing his ground against what he calls an "intimidation game" by private security guards and sheriff's deputies patrolling the beach on all-terrain vehicles.
Ken Ehrlich, an attorney representing Broad Beach homeowners, said that although no one likes the unsightly sandbags, they are merely a temporary measure to protect homes from an unprecedented pattern of erosion.
"There is no hidden agenda here," Ehrlich said, echoing homeowners who declined to comment on the record. "The owners are trying to protect and widen the beach so these public access issues will go away."
In recent months, the homeowners hired coastal engineers to better understand the erosion and come up with a solution that is likely to include a wall of buried boulders to fortify the beach, rock structures called groins stretching out to sea to retain sand and a regular campaign to re-nourish the emaciated beach with tons of imported sand. The cost is estimated at $10 million to $20 million and the homeowners, who include many Hollywood celebrities, are considering only private funding, Ehrlich said.
"Our hope is that at the end of this process, there is more of Broad Beach for everybody to share," he said. "The homeowners can have their private beach and the public can have its share too."
To scientists like JPL's Patzert, such efforts can buy time. Still, he's betting on the swelling sea to take ultimate control of Broad Beach.
By his calculus, catastrophe will strike when a two- to five-foot rise in sea level is joined by a 7-foot high tide and El Niño-generated storm surf of 10 feet or more.
"These folks in these overly rich communities will be sipping their martinis during some big El Niño and watching their backyards disappear in 5-feet chunks," Patzert said. "In the end, Mother Nature and global warming will win. No matter how much concrete they pour, all of those sea walls and houses will end up in the ocean."