By Dave Schwab
Agitated La Jolla Shores residents and merchants fearful of construction dislocation and the survival of their small businesses, pleaded with city officials Wednesday night to postpone a storm drain, sewer and water project along Avenida De La Playa.
“With a little bit more time, maybe you’ll find a resolution that will not kill the little businesses,” said Nanci Kirk, La Jolla Shores Association board member and owner of Papalulu’s at the Shores Restaurant. “There’s no question you will kill me. You can’t throw this on us this fast and destroy us. That’s what you will do.”
Isabelle “Izzy” Tihanyi, also a member of the Shores merchant group, said at the meeting called by the city at the La Jolla Riford Library, she was “speaking on behalf of a lot of the businesses that have seen that street chewed up and are suffering from the recession and the worst summer last year in 75 years.”
She asked that the city “consider postponing this for two more years to give the businesses a chance to revive and save up to handle the hit we’re all going to take for eight months when the city does construction.”
Labeled the Avenida De La Playa Infrastructure Replacement Project, the $3.6 million project would replace 1,300 feet of storm drain, 1,200 feet of sewer and 150 feet of water line and the (ocean) outfall structure in La Jolla Shores.
City officials say the work is required because of frequent flooding of undersized storm drains on Avenida De La Playa, which feeds directly into the ocean posing a pollution threat to the Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) offshore.
The are proposing working block-by-block in four phases beginning at the beach and working backward toward La Jolla Shores Drive, starting in September 2012.
City engineer Akram Bassyouni told the 30 or so people at the meeting the “storm drain is totally under-capacity. Avenida De La Playa is the lowest point in the area where all the water goes, and there’s no way to divert the water: There’s nowhere else for the water to go.”
Longtime La Jolla Shores landlord Martin Mosier challenged city engineers’ conclusion that the system is too small, asking to see their calculations and asserting a different reason for the flooding.
“That system is backing up because the weir (a dam-like used to alter the flow characteristics) on the beach is clogged because the city hasn’t maintained it,” he said, adding there’s been little or no development along that stretch of Avenida De La Playa for the last 20 years or more.
Bassyouni responded that “this system handles the largest watershed in all of La Jolla” and is not close to what is needed for the area.
Community activist Bernie Segal told the city staffers, “The cure you’re proposing may be worse than the problem. Why don’t you open this up to comments from other engineers, a lot of whom live in La Jolla who might be willing to work gratuitously?”
‘That’s why we’re here so early, one and a half years ahead of time, to get your feedback,” answered Bassyouni, who added the project is still in the design phase with environmental permitting yet to be completed.
“We will be back before you,” he said.