La Jolla Shores residents lament road construction activity: Board frustrated at perceived lack of City ‘concern’

Just over a year after the City of San Diego wrapped up a disruptive construction project along Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores, crews are back at it for another project along La Jolla Shores Drive. And once again, La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) members are dissatisfied with the City’s perceived inconsideration for the residents.

The City sewer and water project, currently underway, will replace 12,300 linear feet of water main pipes along La Jolla Shores Drive and connecting eastward streets. To accommodate construction vehicles, traffic is limited to one lane in some segments.

The work will proceed in this way until Memorial Day, when the summer construction moratorium goes into effect. At that time, work will continue on residential streets to the east of La Jolla Shores Drive that is not covered by the construction moratorium.

The construction was the leading topic at the LJSA meeting, Nov. 14, and issues such as crews leaving materials behind at the end of the day, safety hazards created as a result, and lack of traffic control were broached. To add insult to injury, no one from the City qualified to speak about the current and upcoming construction projects was in attendance, despite a request from the LJSA board.

“This project is at least as big as the Avenida de la Playa work, and impacts a whole lot more people,” said LJSA chair Janie Emerson. “This is impacting the residents, those trying to go up La Jolla Shores Drive and those who visit.”

Trustee Dave Gordon said he spoke to the engineers involved in the project to complain about the way equipment is being left on the street at the end of each day. “If you look at the corner of Camino del Oro and La Jolla Shores Drive, all the barriers, signage and cones are stacked up on the corner and you cannot cross the crosswalk to get to the sidewalk,” he said.

“On the east side, about 10 feet up, there is a barrier (to prevent debris from) getting into the storm drain, but there is no sidewalk there … it forces pedestrians to walk into the travel lane. And about 40 percent of the drivers who turn right there, blow right past the stop sign and are not going to see the pedestrians that have to walk in the street. We are going to have someone killed or injured.”

Further, trustee Charlie Brown pointed out the No Parking signs that line the street are inconsistent. Some reportedly indicate parking is prohibited 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, others say 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, others just provide a monthly range.

“There are some that are handwritten that read 9/28/2018 to 2/26/19,” Gordon added.

The parking prohibition is to accommodate construction vehicles and crews, of which some have provided problems for residents.

“At the beginning of the construction, my experience with crews was more positive than it is now. I have a circular driveway and if I needed to get out, they would stop traffic and let me out,” Emerson said. “In the last week, that has changed. I had an emergency today and I couldn’t get out. I finally drove over the cones, and the worker yelled at me, but I told them 15 minutes before that I needed to get out and they didn’t do anything.”

Mauricio Medina, representing the offices of City Council member Barbara Bry, confirmed there have been “a lot” of complaints filed about the traffic plan, including “recommendations” as to how it could be improved, but he did not elaborate and he could not answer questions about the project.

Emerson told Medina: “We used to get reports when there was construction and problems on Avenida de la Playa and … so to not have someone here to tell us what’s going on, how long construction will last, and listen to what our issues are, is really upsetting.”

She noted the board is not meeting in December, leaving January as the earliest opportunity for the board to be updated.

“The other issue is, this isn’t the only construction project slated for this area,” Emerson concluded. “We have more coming down the pipeline. We wanted to find out more about what is coming, how long we will be impacted and make sure the problems we saw with Avenida de la Playa don’t happen again.”

At the end of 2019, the Shores is slated for the City utilities undergrounding project. The “blocks” that will be undergrounded are currently in the design phase, and once this phase is completed, construction will begin and a more secure timeline will be set.

In other LJSA news

Parking lot locks: Council member Bry, Medina announced, allocated discretionary funds toward locking the gates to the Kellogg Park parking lot at night. Despite signage indicating the parking lot is closed at 10 p.m., availability of City staff to close and lock the gates has been sparse.

“We got about $200,000 worth of requests for $50,000 of funds to allocate for the whole district,” he said, adding that the gates will be locked at 10 p.m. for one year, starting as soon as funds are transferred to the Department of Park & Rec.

Handrail needed: La Jolla resident Patrick Ahern successfully advocated for a new handrail along a wall alongside a small beach-access south of the Marine Room restaurant. “The beach access is a public right-of-way … and the neighborhood uses it, but it’s in very tough condition. It’s very slippery. There’s a lot of kelp that comes up at high tide, and the walkway is fairly gentle to a certain point and then very steep. That’s the dangerous part. And there is nothing to hold onto, and that’s the issue,” he said, showing pictures of people making their way down the path, holding onto a nearby wall for balance and support.

He said the simplest solution is a handrail, which reportedly has the support of neighbors and lifeguards.

The project would likely be funded by private donations, but as a last resort, he would ask for funding from the City. As such, a pricetag has not been determined. A motion to approve the installation passed 10-0-2.

Fire rules vote: Following a presentation last month about deterring wood fires on the beaches of La Jolla Shores, resident Joe Gatto returned with a request to have the LJSA vote on a request to change the San Diego Municipal Code citywide.

His argument is that wood and charcoal fires should be prohibited because of the hazards of smoke and users burying hot coals in the sand, which can stay hot for hours. He instead advocates for portable containers that use propane as a fuel because it does not produce smoke or leave coals.

He presented two motions: one to clarify the Municipal Code to require San Diego beaches only allow portable propane firepits and barbecues; prohibit portable firepits and or portable barbecues, except those that burn propane; restrict wood- and charcoal-burning fires to City-installed fire rings and barbecues; prohibit tiki torches; and prohibit fires between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., the second motion was to ask for the removal of wood-fire rings and barbecues on La Jolla Shores beaches.

The idea behind the two motions was to limit wood fires to City-installed fire rings and, at the same time, get rid of fire rings in The Shores, because if wood-burning fires are only allowed in fire rings and there are no fire rings in the Shores, wood fires would effectively be illegal.

However, only the first motion passed, largely due to concern that recommending removing all fire rings would cause public outcry.

LJSA trustee Dolores Donovan opined that the passage of the first motion indicated “incremental change” with the possibility that fire rings could be banned later in the Shores. “In the long run, you get farther if you take smaller steps,” she said.

The ordinance itself would be written by the City Attorney’s office.

— La Jolla Shores Association next meets 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 at Martin Johnson House, 8840 Biological Grade.