City: La Jolla’s Coast Blvd. stair project to start June 14

The 100 Coast Blvd. stairs, as seen from the beach
(María José Durán)

It’s been over a year since La Jollans lost the beach access staircase at 100 Coast Blvd., known as The Horseshoe, due to a storm that destroyed the steps (See timeline below). Despite the fact that the lack of access was declared an “emergency” by the City, the stairs have been fenced-off since late 2015.

Throughout 2016, work to get the stairs reinstated faced multiple stumbling blocks (from determining whether the project was a “replacement” or “repair” and scheduling the work accordingly, to discovering a cavity in the seawall that jeopardized its stability), but City officials believe all the issues have been resolved and work will begin next month.

In spring 2016, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group formed a sub-committee to investigate getting the stairs back and the subcommittee has been reporting on the issue at monthly meetings ever since.

Jong Choi, senior civil engineer with the City of San Diego Public Works Department, updated the group at the LJP&B meeting May 22 at La Jolla Rec Center. The most recent issue, he explained, has to do with the shoring structure that will support the staircase.

Civil engineer Jong Choi speaks about the City’s plans to reinstate the 100 Coast Blvd. staircase.
(Ashley Mackin)

The original idea was to attach the staircase to an adjacent seawall, but issues with the homeowners association of the building that owns the seawall caused the City to reevaluate the plans. The City’s new solution is to build the stairs independent of the building and forgo the shoring.

“We had plans to start construction in early May, but at the last minute, the shoring contractor pulled out of the project because workers came on-site and realized the stairs are so close to the water that the shoring could wash away from high tides,” he said. “So the contractor contacted 10 other shoring companies and none of them wanted to be part of this project due to the shoring concern. One contractor was willing to do it, but his price was twice the overall construction budget, so we couldn’t accept it.”

The City decided to postpone construction by one month to research the beach conditions and find alternatives. Choi explained that the sand level increases “quite a bit” during summer months and the waves are smaller than in the winter months. As such, engineers believe they can build a concrete foundation during the summer without shoring. “It is a bit of a risk, but that is our plan right now,” Choi said, adding that construction would start June 14 and take eight weeks to build the whole stairway.

After the construction, the City would own the stairs and maintain them going forward.

Staircase Saga Timeline

Late 2015: A winter storm blows the staircase apart between 100-200 Coast Blvd., which lead to the beach area known as “The Horseshoe.”

Early 2016: The City of San Diego blocks the access and posts a chain-link fence at the top of the stairs.

March 2016: A La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) sub-committee forms to explore getting the stairs reinstated, but is told the stairs were beyond repair and would have to be built from scratch. As such, the project would have to be ADA-compliant and meet City Code and would take years to complete.

June 2016: The City declares the lack of access an “emergency” and says the stairs will be treated as such in getting them replaced. At this time, former City Council member Sherri Lightner told La Jolla Light, “I strongly support the decision to designate the Coast Boulevard stair replacement as an emergency. This is an important coastal access and public safety issue, and our office will continue to work with City staff to expedite this project.”

Late summer 2016: City representatives announce staircase repair work would begin in October.

October 2016: City engineers discover a cavity in the seawall and announce they will need to work with the homeowners association of the adjoining building to get it evaluated. With the pending winter and predicted storms, it is expected that the work will be postponed to 2017.

January 2017: City public information officer Mónica Muñoz reports: “The design of this project has been completed and we have awarded it to a contractor. The site observation performed at the beginning revealed there was a void under the seawall that is owned by the adjacent homeowner’s association (HOA). We advised the HOA to have this evaluated by an independent geotechnical firm.

“The HOA hired a consultant and shared the findings with us back in early November. The report recommended repairs in order to preserve and maintain the seawall. Since it’s imperative the repairs be done first, the City notified the HOA that we would suspend our project until they complete the repairs. Once the repairs are complete, we can move ahead with our project. We have been e-mailing the HOA but have not yet received a response from them.”

March 2017: Mauricio Medina, field rep for now City Council member Barbara Bry, reports the City decided to build the stairs independent of the nearby wall, allowing work to begin in April.

May 2017: Jong Choi, senior civil engineer with the City Public Works Department, tells the LJP&B board that engineers believe they can build a concrete foundation during the summer without shoring, adding that construction would start June 14 and take eight weeks.

In other LJP&B news:

Burgers & Brews event introduced: La Jolla Village Merchants Association vice-president Brett Murphy explained plans for a “Burgers & Brews” event in Scripps Park to kick-off the Breeders’ Cup horse races. He said the Merchant’s Association is partnering with the Breeders’ Cup organizers (the event is Nov. 3-4 at the Del Mar Racetrack) in the hope of bringing race-goers to La Jolla. “Burgers & Brews will give us an opportunity to get in on the Breeders’ Cup and bring people here so they can shop. We need them to see what great dining and shopping we have in La Jolla,” he said.

Breeder’s Cup management suggested La Jolla host a Burgers & Brews festival, which is run by an independent company that hosts events across the country in partnership with other events. Proceeds would benefit the University City-based BraveCort Foundation to support research in the fight against childhood cancer, specifically pediatric brain cancer.

The Burgers & Brews proposal will also be heard at La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation advisory group meeting, June 21. Rather than vote or take action on the event, LJP&B decided to wait until T&T can review the details and have the proposal return to LJP&B’s June 25 meeting.

Janet Collins joins the La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory board as a voting member.
(Ashley Mackin)

New member seated: To replace outgoing member Zack Spitzer, LJP&B chair Ann Dynes seated Janet Collins. “She is a New England native and was an educator. She moved to La Jolla in 2005,” Dynes said. Collins later told La Jolla Light that her interest in the board is to see the Coast Blvd. stairs reinstated.

Black’s Overlook bench: Discussion continued on the Black’s Overlook vegetation project, and its lack of a bench. The project was introduced in 2016, and when it was first discussed, a bench was requested. When the project was revisited, a bench was included in the plans. Earlier this year, seedlings were planted at the site, but no bench was placed. The vegetation was privately funded by neighboring residents.

“The project was executed without the bench, so (LJP&B members) Melinda Merryweather and Mary Ellen Morgan are of the opinion that the failure to install a bench justifies asking the neighbors to tear out the plants and (replace them with) woodchips,” summarized chair Dynes.

Merryweather added, “I would never have voted to support this without the bench. I would rather have the ocean view than the shrubs and bushes that are now there.”

However, LJP&B member Judy Adams Halter said she was worried about the message it would send if the board were to take such action. “It would be terrible bad-will to tear out those plants because of a bench and we don’t want to come off that way,” she said. A motion to remove the vegetation failed.

As an alternative, a sub-committee to visit the site and research bench options agreed to form and report back at a future meeting.

— Parks & Beaches next meets 4 p.m. Monday, June 25 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.