An emergency meeting between the City of San Diego and the La Jolla Shores business owners was held Oct. 25 in front of Piatti restaurant in The Shores, to talk about an element of the construction project along Avenida de la Playa that needs to be redone.
Certain projects completed during the ongoing three-year underground sewer and water infrastructure replacement, for one reason or another need to be repeated.
One of them is the installation of a bio-filter box under the intersection of Avenida de la Playa and El Paseo Grande that became overloaded during a storm in January and flooded the street and a handful of businesses. To remedy the situation, the box will be removed and the affected intersection will likely be shut down during November and December.
City of San Diego senior engineer Steve Lindsay explained, “As part of the overall project, crews took out a section of pipe and put in a bio-filter box to remove pollutions such as oils, trash and the like. The problem is, they put it right in line with the pipe, which made the pipe hydraulically inefficient. So there was a huge build-up of pressure during a storm … and it blew apart the structure.”
The bio-filter box installation is required under the City’s storm-water treatment guidelines, which especially apply to La Jolla Shores because it is an Area of Special Biological Significance.
“Our goal is to take the bio-filter box out and replace it with pipe,” Lindsay said. “A new box will be installed under La Jolla Shores Drive, which will be better able to handle it, but engineers have not told me exactly where yet.”
To provide adequate room for the removal and installation of piping, about 90 feet of Avenida de la Playa (at El Paseo Grande) would be closed down starting the second week of November. “We want to get it done while we have clear weather and an opening in the schedule,” Lindsay said. Construction in The Shores is not permitted during the summer construction moratorium of Memorial Day (in May) to Labor Day (in September), and crews hope to avoid any weather delays should it rain.
“I don’t know what kind of rain events we are going to get this year. We could have a very wet winter and I need every available day to get this built,” he said. “This is something we can start right now because we have the plans for it right now.”
Additional urgency comes from the fact that the current bio-filter box is “very unstable,” he said. “Water is going to shoot out if we get any pressure from a storm. We need to get this system replaced as soon as possible.”
However, area businesses that count on holiday parties and tourists who visit in the winter months hope the construction work can wait until January.
Trying their patience
“You are saying this is imperative now, it should have been imperative in January when the stupid thing overflowed and flooded,” said Piatti owner Tom Spano. “What am I supposed to tell those who have already booked their company parties or holiday parties?”
He asked why the replacement work did not take place in January, when the blowout occurred, or in September, after a summer that could have been spent drafting plans.
Lindsay responded that to avoid further repeat projects, crews are being scrupulous with their designs. He added if crews wait, and there is a storm like what occurred last year, “it could blow out this whole intersection. As the senior construction engineer, I cannot recommend we delay this work one day.”
Nonetheless, owners of adjacent businesses said they intend to petition the City and ask that work begin in January.
“It’s a rock-and-a-hard-place situation,” Spano opined.
“And we’re in the hard place,” added Ocean Girl owner Terry Kraszewski.
In addition to the bio-filter box replacement, the City also needs to re-install 15-foot box culverts under the two western-most blocks of Avenida de la Playa – also work that has already been complete.
The box culverts are square support systems that surround large pipes at the outfall structure that feeds to the beach. When they were installed in mid-2014, they were not sized and placed properly. As such, Lindsay said crews need to unearth and replace them, and the City will proceed with that work as soon as plans are released.
Taking stock of the situation
Work on the overall project began in Fall 2013, and has proceeded at every available opportunity since. While construction was expected to be complete last year, delays and incidences of redoing certain aspects of work postponed the end date to Memorial Day 2017.
The construction will likely be discussed at the La Jolla Shores Association meeting, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 8840 Biological Grade on Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus. ljsa.org