Trustees advocate for Shores boardwalk replacement

The almost-half-mile-long boardwalk running from Avenida de la Playa to Calle Opima (on the north side of Kellogg Park) has caught the attention of La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) board members. More specifically, its jagged cracks, unfilled gaps and crumbling seawall have “caught” them and they want something done about it.

“I’m down here every day, either walking my dogs or riding my bike, and I see the progressive breakdown (of the boardwalk),” LJSA trustee Richard Montemarano told La Jolla Light as he pointed at the sidewalk cracks close to where he was standing near the lifeguard tower. “Like that over there, that’s dangerous! Someone could twist an ankle or a skateboard’s wheel could get stuck there.”

The board has finally agreed upon a project it will advocate for — a new boardwalk for La Jolla Shores. The present 3-foot-tall seawall and a sidewalk that operates as view corridor and first impression of the famous beach separates Kellogg Park from the sand. The infrastructure is frequented by beach-goers, pedestrians, bicyclists, surfers and skateboarders.

Angie Preisendorfer, a longtime resident and LJSA member said, “We have 3 million visitors to this beach every year, and we should have a showcase boardwalk, like they do at The Cove, so people come here and know we’re proud of our beach.”

Montemarano continued pointing out the various problems he sees along the boardwalk, like the run-down beach entrances, the “eyesore” trash cans, and the drainage of the northern comfort station that permanently floods the adjacent sidewalk. “You go up to Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach ... and it’s pristine. You come down here and it looks like crap,” he said.

The cause of the cracks in the sidewalk, Montemarano explained, is the pressure the concrete receives from the adjacent seawall when the high tides reach it, “I think the wall’s rebar was anchored under the concrete of the sidewalk, so the stress, when the ocean hits the wall, keeps cracking the sidewalk.”

LJSA trustee John Sheridan added, “The biggest motive for the City (to fix the boardwalk) should be that we don’t want people walking and skateboarding on this thing, because people can trip and fall.”

A mystery boardwalk

It appears that the La Jolla Shores Boardwalk was planted one day without anybody noticing in the middle of the public beach. The City doesn’t seem to hold any records of when, why or who constructed it. Shores fixtures such as Mary Coakley-Munk or Bill Kellogg scratch their heads at the questions. The Light has narrowed down the construction date to somewhere between 1964 and 1972, and in the maps the public right-of-way is identified as “La Vereda,” which is Spanish for “trail,” but that’s as far as records go.

The City charter mentions it in its “Article 3: Environmental Health Quality Controls, Division 10: Smoking Regulations,” defining the public street as a boardwalk susceptible to the City’s alcohol ban. “For purposes of this Division, the following definitions shall apply: ‘Boardwalk’ means the public walkway ... (the La Vereda and Calle Opima rights-of-way) at Kellogg Park at La Jolla Shores Beach.”

The City confirmed the “public street” status of the boardwalk. Like any other sidewalk in San Diego, the responsibility of maintenance falls on the owner of the adjacent property. In this case, almost 80 percent of the sidewalk runs by City-owned Kellogg Park, except for a segment that sides the La Jolla Shores Hotel. Public information officer Anthony Santacroce wrote in a statement, “The Park & Recreation Department is responsible for general maintenance of the existing Boardwalk.”

However, a 2012 report elaborated by City staff for the approval of the ongoing sewer and water infrastructure replacement project at Avenida de la Playa, includes a mention of the boardwalk. The document reads: “An accessible sidewalk, public seating and public access near and on the boardwalk leading onto the sandy beach, will be maintained or constructed as part of the project in order to preserve and improve public beach access.”

Asked for an update on the status of this construction, Santacroce wrote, “The stormwater project on Avenida la Playa is still ongoing. The status of and consideration for any recommended improvements to the boardwalk with respect to added seating and beach access is still uncertain. Similarly, however, improvements were made adjacent to the new lifeguard tower at the shores.”

As Santacroce indicated, the sidewalk in front of the new main lifeguard tower at The Shores, as well as the segment where the old main tower stood, have been improved and are noticeably more satisfying than the rest of the surface, said LJSA trustees. Montemarano criticized that, even though the sidewalks were improved, there is no direct access to the beach in front of the tower, “Right in front of the lifeguard tower, there should be beach access. The lifeguards should have better access (to the beach) than jumping over a wall, that’s insane.”

Some 11 years ago, a similar project started at  LJSA to remodel Kellogg Park and the boardwalk. However, as the La Jolla Light reported in May, 2005, the plans caused a “public uproar” of rejection. Mark Broido, then-president of LJSA, said, “The genesis of our planning was that the boardwalk and the seawall are in disrepair and could stand to be renovated.”

Sheridan elaborated, “This is now 10 years older than it was when it was a problem. Construction-wise this structure is way past its life cycle.”

However, the opposition to remodel the boardwalk 11 years ago came from a lack of consultation to the public. Resident Karen Boger said in the same Light story from 2005, “The Shores Association knows very well this workshop should have been brought to public notice so the community could have their input on the goals of Kellogg Park. Everybody wants to be involved, especially because that park is for everybody in San Diego and abroad. We’re upset the process wasn’t followed.”

So this time, the LJSA needs to include the area neighbors from the beginning. “What we would like to do is get everybody on board that would like to do something about it, and go to the City,” Montemarano said.

Members are aware, were the project to come true, it will be at least partially privately funded. During their last meeting, chair Nick LeBeouf hinted at the possibility to create a Capital Improvement Project to secure funding.

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