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Residents want answers about broken beach stairs in La Jolla

Parks & Beaches group forms committee to investigate

The stair access to Horseshoe Beach is fenced off for repair, but no one knows when the repair will take place.
The stair access to Horseshoe Beach is fenced off for repair, but no one knows when the repair will take place.
Ashley Mackin

As the stairs leading to Horseshoe Beach — located between 100 and 200 Coast Boulevard — remain in disrepair and fenced-off to prohibit public access, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory committee discussed the issue at its April 25 meeting.

The questions confronting the board include when the stairs (which were destroyed during this winter’s high tides and storms) would be repaired? Who originally constructed them? What city permits would be required to fix them? What would be the cost and source of funding?

“The stairs have been damaged beyond repair, which means they must be redesigned or re-engineered from the beginning,” said LJP&B chair Dan Allen, adding that any beachfront project requires a permitting and subcontractor selection process that could take years, which he said is “very unfortunate.”

Further, Allen reported that in his communications with the city, he found that a private contractor associated with the nearby condo complexes might have constructed the stairs. If so, either the original engineering plans would have to be tracked down and evaluated, or new plans would need to be drawn up.

“If the original plans were found, that would save a year,” Allen said. Either way, the project could take years.

Opposed to such a timeline is nearby resident John Alexander, who spoke at the meeting. “We dream of getting the stairs put back in the next few months, but we’d like to see them put in sooner than later,” he said. “I think we should set up private fundraising and see if we can light a fire under this project.”

He later told La Jolla Light, “The people who live near the coast have favorite beaches and they are dedicated to those spots. I grew up on that beach, in that water and on that sand. It’s my beach. … I don’t want to wait years to go down there again. I cannot fathom why it is going to take so long, it’s mind-boggling to me.”

After the meeting, San Diego Park & Rec district manger Dan Daneri told the Light, “When doing something like this, engineering could be complicated because the staircase is hanging off a seawall. You want to make sure it’s strong enough to hold on and withstand tides, winds and storms. It’s not like putting a straight set of stairs somewhere.”

Over the years, when minor repairs were required to the stairs, the city carried them out, but thus far, a complete replacement was never merited.

Daneri said city departments are working to determine the cost and which permits will be needed, given the stairs are on the coast and contiguous with a walkway installed under the guise of the California Coastal Commission. Although the staircase is at the end of a Commission walkway, the stairs are not under the Commission’s jurisdiction.

Marcia Venegas, California Coastal Commission coastal program analyst explained, “The walkway itself was required as part of a previously issued permit (around the 1970s), however, our records do not show anything about the stairs.”

Because the departments (and projects) are separate, she added, “We have no way to compel the city to fix the stairs. We would support that they be replaced because it is an actively-used beach and it goes with our mission to provide public access to the coast.”

Although there are other access points in the area, residents like Alexander still want this beloved path back. To the north, the nearest beach access point is at the end of the 200 block of Coast Boulevard. To the south, there is a driveway at White Sands retirement community and further beyond that is Marine Street Beach.

However, Alexander noted, “All the kids park near Marine Street, so there’s no parking and no one wants to schlep their family’s stuff for miles. At Horseshoe, there is a lot of parking and the access is right there.”

To assist with funding and get the ball rolling, Alexander joined a LJP&B working group to investigate the origin of the stairs and be a liaison for city updates, and maybe raise private dollars.

“I was going to set up a crowdfunding page … but if we do, we want to make sure whatever we raise wouldn’t just go to the city’s general fund, that it would be earmarked for this project,” he said. “The main reason I wanted to do that is to show the city that we are serious, we’re not just entitled La Jollans telling them what do to, but are willing to put up our hard-earned cash to get it done. If that fails, we will try to present the city with a public/private partnership idea and raise the funds, get an engineer to draw up plans, and give the city a complete package on a silver platter for them to carry out — whatever works fastest.”

In other Parks & Beaches news

• Board OKs sidewalk plans: During the March meeting, LJP&B approved, in concept, plans for the sidewalk associated with the Whale View Point Shoreline Enhancement Project. With formal renderings in hand, the board voted to approve the plans unanimously.

The new sidewalk will replace the current dirt walkways along the parks of Whale View Point, and connect existing segments of concrete sidewalk with an ADA-compliant walkway. A schedule will be announced as soon as one is confirmed.

The walkways along Whale View Point will be replaced with an ADA-compliant sidewalk.
The walkways along Whale View Point will be replaced with an ADA-compliant sidewalk.
Ashley Mackin

• Whale View Point ideas: Whale View Point project organizer Ann Dynes announced she intends to apply for funds from the La Jolla Community Foundation during its next grant cycle, which focuses on beatification (read more at sdfoundation.org/grantseekers/apply-for-a-grant/#ljcf).

During a previous grant cycle, the Whale View Point Project was awarded $8,500. Dynes’ hope is that the next grant would fund new trash can lids that would be more resistant to weather, animals and rummaging, but still acceptable to the city and more similar to those found at WindanSea Beach.

“They cost $68 a piece and we would need 70 (less than $5,000 in total) to harmonize the trash collection units across the coastline,” she said. “To me they look a lot better and look more coastal, and don’t stick out so much.” A motion to support her efforts passed unanimously.

• Children’s Pool Walk schedule announced: Allen said a notice to proceed on the Children’s Pool Walk beautification project will be posted May 2 and the permitting process will continue to Oct. 28.

Plans call for improving and redeveloping the sidewalk area above Children’s Pool (aka Casa Beach), including adding landscaping and new sitting areas. The hope is to begin construction in April 2017.