By Dave Schwab
A proposal to replace storm drains along Avenida De La Playa in La Jolla Shores has merchants fearing for their economic lives and community planners questioning the project’s scope.
Jennifer Nichols Kearns of the city's Pollution Prevention Division and project manager Akram Bassyouni told La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) on Wednesday the infrastructure improvement project must be done.
As part of a state-designated Area of Special Biological Significance, city officials said the replacement project is required to prevent waste discharges from an inadequate, undersized existing stormwater pipe from flooding and discharging pollutants into the ocean via an outfall near the Shores boat ramp.
“We’re referring to this project lovingly as 'the box,'” said Nichols Kearns. “It’s the solution at the end of Avenida De La Playa, with funding available, to upgrade the undersized stormwater pipeline and outfall structure, replacing 1,300 feet of pipe.”
Nichols Kearns said the project is to begin in September 2012 after the summer construction moratorium and last six to eight months with completion anticipateed by May 2013.
“I won’t be in business then,” said Nanci Kirk, LJSA boardmember and owner of Papalulu’s at the Shores Restaurant. “When the city says six to eight months — that’s a year.”
After the LJSA meeting, Kirk said the city doesn’t understand what impact shutting down sections of Avenida De La Playa during project construction will have on businessowners.
“Businesses are so fragile here: It will destroy a lot of people,” she said. “We’re just coming off a terrible last summer. Our Septembers are warm and beautiful. I don’t want to lose September.”
Nichols Kerns said the city will work with merchants to do everything possible to lessen the impact of construction. She suggested hours could be flexible, and nighttime work might even be considered to offset their concerns.
Other association board members questioned the replacement project’s timing, planning and accountability.
"You’re presenting this as if the decision’s already been made,” said Bernie Siegel. “We don’t know how that process took place, how that decision was made. Was the public given an opportunity to weigh in on it?”
“This the best engineering solution we’ve come up with for the regulations that require zero (pollutant) discharge,” replied Nichols Kerns.
Noting the pipeline and ocean outfall both seem excessively large, Mary Coakley said, “It’s unfortunate this has come to us as if the design is already set in stone. You should meet with everybody to brainstorm how it (project) might be mitigated.”
Nichols Kerns told them, “We don’t have options on making this smaller as far as the capacity of that pipe is concerned. This is pretty much the minimum pipeline size required to handle flooding and prevent overflow.”
In other matters, Audrey Keane was elected as the association's president, replacing Joe Dicks. Coco Tihanyi was elected vice chair and Ruth Padgett was made treasurer. The secretary position will rotate until someone can be found to fill it.
There are also two board vacancies as members Ed Furtek and Pat Nissan announced they are stepping down.