City may reopen La Jolla’s Coast Walk Bridge, temporary bypass planned

A plan is in the works to manage the vegetation along Coast Walk and Torrey Pines Road, and ultimately, restore public access to the Coast Walk Bridge.

The City previously said there were no plans to re-open the bridge after it closed in March, but has since changed its tune. A temporary bridge bypass is in the works, but a timeline has not been announced for its implementation or completion.

The management plan would include drafting an agreement with nearby residents so the City can preserve views by trimming the vegetation near the parking lot at the start of Coast Walk Trail and the ocean side of Torrey Pines Road (south of Prospect Street), and reinforce a portion of the bridge so it could be reopened.

At issue is a short segment that feeds from the parking lot entrance of the Coast Walk Trail to the main bridge that spans the gorge along the Coast Walk Trail. The main bridge itself is sufficient, but the perpendicular lead-in is not. Signs are posted on both ends of the bridge indicating it is closed.

“It’s our intent to restore the bridge, restore access to the bridge, restore the stability of the bridge and find a way to keep that trail active,” said Bill Harris, spokesperson for the Transportation and Stormwater Department at the Sept. 25 La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory board meeting.

The footing for the affected portion has been “wiped out,” and would require “invasive” work to restore. In what is turning out to be an “epic project,” Harris said all appropriate City departments that would need to weigh in have been informed, and the California Coastal Commission would soon need to join the conversation.

“Engineers are coming up with a design concept, but until they come up with and get those concepts in place, there is no way to launch a permitting process, so we do not have a timeline,” Harris told the board. “In the interim, the plan is to re-route the trail, bring it up a little bit from its current configuration, and essentially bypass the bridge so you can get on the trail. Our engineers are looking at a way to do that and what that would mean.”

The bypass would be a temporary measure until the bridge, which was built to its current configuration in 1932 and reinforced in the early 1990s, can be restored. (It’s unknown when it was originally built.)

Under the in-development agreement, the City would also manage vegetation that some argue has gotten out of hand.

“There was some planting done (along the Coast Walk Trail parking lot) that is consistent with the types of things allowed in coastal bluff areas, but there has been failures in maintenance,” Harris said. “So we have started working with Friends of Coast Walk to recast an agreement … because it has only been maintained by hand and not as well as we would like considering it is City property. We want to make sure that it’s done right ... so those plants will not come up above the view corridor.”

Additionally, Harris said the overgrown vegetation along a segment of Torrey Pines Road would be similarly maintained. In March 2015, the City lowered the height of the fence from six feet to four feet, removed a tarp that blocked ocean views and removed some of the vegetation. However, some nearby homeowners have since re-planted vegetation that has grown well above the height of the fence. Some homeowners have trimmed the plants to the fence-line. Others have not.

The outlying vegetation has been brought up at La Jolla Community Planning Association meetings for the last several months.

“We’re going to bundle maintenance of that hillside and the maintenance of the vegetation with the agreement we strike with Friends of Coast Walk because it will all be part and parcel with the work we do on the trail side,” Harris said. “We want to codify what they can do and will do in terms of maintenance.”

A mixed message?

Signs are posted on both ends indicating the bridge is closed. However, physical deterrents such as stop signs, A-frame signs, caution tape or “Bridge Closed” signs have been moved, leaving an open path to access the bridge and trail. It is not know who moved the signage.

In other Parks & Beaches news:

Concours d’Elegance a-go: The Concours d’Elegance car show in April — which is always a hot debate at La Jolla Parks & Beaches meetings because the event closes off almost all of Scripps Park — was discussed and the board voted to support the event in 2018. The 2017 car show had record attendance.

For the event, a portion of Coast Boulevard is lined with classic cars and open to the public for free viewing, but the main, ticketed event takes up the entire park and uses six-foot tall fencing and tarps.

Concours organizer Michael Dorvillier told the board “the fenced-in, ticketed event includes hospitality suits and VIP booths. It’s how we raise our revenue. These suits are our biggest source of income.” Proceeds go to La Jolla Historical Society, and provide about half of the LJHS’s annual operating budget.

Wrack removal a no-go: After last month’s discussion on whether the board could remove wrack (dried seaweed that has washed ashore) on La Jolla’s beaches, Mauricio Medina, representing the office of District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry, said the City is not able to organize a formal cleanup.

“I spoke with the Department of Park & Rec and as far as they know, the City has never cleaned the wrack …” he said.

A few audience members interrupted to say that was not true; they witnessed lifeguards cleaning the wrack decades ago.

However, Medina continued “… and right now do not have the resources or capacity to do so.”

At issue is the excessive build-up of wrack on the beach, which some consider to be unsightly and unpleasantly pungent, and others argue provides a food source for beach invertebrates, which in turn are a food source for shore birds.

— La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.