City wants to resume Torrey Pines Road work at night in La Jolla, so what’s stopping them?

Project manager Steven Bliss and construction engineer Ahmed Aburahmah, supervisors of the City’s Torrey Pines Slope Stabilization Project, told members of the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation (T&T) Board that all work could still be performed at night once the project resumes after Labor Day. In fact, they would prefer doing it that way.

So what’s stopping them?

The supervisors explained that they have received opposition to night work from members of the La Jolla Community Planning Association and, Aburahmah said, “directions from the Mayor’s Office and the Council member (Barbara Bry’s) office (that) we have to do it daytime.”

“I have no control,” Aburahmah added.

(Bry replied to the Light’s inquiry for clarification by making the following statement through a representative: “I was briefed on this project twice and during both meetings, I did not direct City staff to only conduct the work during the day. I understand the impacts that this project could have on nearby neighborhoods and I would defer to the community as to whether it would be less impactful to have the work done at night or during the day.” The Mayor’s office did not respond by press time.)

Bliss blamed the upcoming daytime schedule on objections he received while presenting at La Jolla Community Planning Association meetings of April 6, 2017 and Sept. 7, 2017, where he said he was told that night work would be “the absolute worst thing that could possibly ever happen.” He explained: “We took that as the truth, presuming there would be public outcry of all sorts when we did night work.”

Minutes from the CPA meetings on those days do not reflect any objections — which doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t voiced — and no motions were passed on those dates regarding the project.

Aburahmah told the board that the commutes of 53,000 cars per day in and out of La Jolla would increase by 30 minutes until at least early December. Outraged community and board members responded that residents of 50-100 houses, at most, would be impacted by the noise — all of whom would also be impacted by the daytime traffic jams.

“You’re going to put businesses out of business by screwing that road up during the day,” said T&T board member Tom Brady. “We can’t afford to lose any more businesses in La Jolla!”

Brady and several other T&T members were shocked to discover, via a La Jolla Light article published earlier that day, that the City planned to once again shut down Torrey Pines Road lanes during daylight hours. (Via a spokesperson, the City had emailed T&T chair Dave Abrams and others on Aug. 2, assuring them that both lanes would be kept open, in both directions, at all times.)

“If we would have known this was the case throughout the summer, I believe that the merchants, and probably a lot of people in the Village, would have rallied together to make sure that there was night work being done,” said board member Alisha Hawrylyszyn Frank, who is also president of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association. “But this has not happened and now it’s being sprung on us less than a month before.”

Bliss replied that, although daytime work was still the rule, he received buy-ins from both the Mayor’s and Bry’s offices to, “in a measured way, override objections to the night work. So we’re not running scared. We will do night work when it makes sense.”

Day and night work costs the same, both supervisors agreed, because even though working at night costs more in overtime pay, it’s also more efficient.

“It’s your call when you want the work — night or daytime,” said Aburahmah, adding that there was still time to decide. “But there has to be communication between this board and Community Planning.”

Abrams moved for a motion to write a letter to the City. However, he then realized that it only appeared on the agenda as a discussion item, so no motion would be possible. So he instructed the supervisors to emphasize more night work.

“We will do that,” Bliss said.

Hawrylyszyn Frank expressed her disappointment that swifter and more decisive action could not be taken.

“I am not a pessimist in any way, but trusting any one individual to say that we will do the bare minimum of daytime work, we can’t trust in this day and age,” she said. “So we have to make sure that we have a little bit more substance in the contract that there is going to be night work.”

Sign of the HAWK

The board unanimously threw unanimous support behind signage warning motorists of the HAWK light crossing they immediately encounter when turning right onto Torrey Pines Road from Princess Street. The motion placed the item on the CPA’s agenda, and endorsed and forwarded a letter to the City written by former CPA trustee Janie Emerson.

“I brought that point up when it came to the CPA because I was still sitting there, why they did this very expensive HAWK light and did not put it exactly at the crosswalk,” Emerson explained. “I haven’t a clue except I know a couple of people who are actually bound and determined that this is what was going to happen.”

“It is kind of hairy,” Abrams noted.

Red curb enthusiasm

Community activist Melinda Merryweather faced her first opposition in her attempt to eliminate the red curbs along the east side of La Jolla Farms Road — which is currently red-striped along with the west side. (Merryweather, claiming she has the support of the Surfrider Foundation, proposes replacing the curbs with four-hour parking for surfers and other visitors.)

Ron Kagan of the La Jolla Farms Security Association appeared before the board to explain that the City came up with the current solution at the request of La Jolla Farms residents, following a 2005 study that found cars were speeding around blind corners.

“Basically, it’s for safety,” Kagan said, explaining that “there’s plenty of parking” in areas such as the 9700 block of Blackgold Road.Merryweather contested each of Kagan’s claims and resident Gerald Handler suggested taking all red curbs away and transforming one side of the street into a pedestrian walkway.

The board voted unanimously for a continuance until it receives the City’s report.

Also at T&T

The board also unanimously voted to ask the City to study the possibility of eliminating parking spaces on Prospect Street east of Torrey Pines Road. The issue, explained by presenter Gail Forbes, is that tour buses and construction trucks can’t make the right turn when cars are parked there.

“I think by removing one parking place adjacent to the red zone, the radius will be sufficient for the trucks to proceed,” Forbes said. “As it is, they have to wait several cycles for the left-hand turn lane to clear up.”

Also passed unanimously was support for crosswalk lighting at the intersection of La Jolla Boulevard and Genter Street, as were requests for no-parking and street closures for the La Jolla Art and Wine Festival from Oct. 6-7, and the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance from April 12-14.

— Due to the Yom Kippur holiday, La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board next meets 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. — instead of as originally scheduled on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

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