To get the attention of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the San Diego City Council, La Jolla Shores business owners, employees, residents and other concerned citizens staged a sit-in the morning of Nov. 7. Pulling up chairs across a closed section of Avenida de la Playa between Piatti and Barbarella restaurants, dozens gathered to protest what they see as a lack of City accountability during the last three years of street construction projects.
“La Jolla Shores businesses and residents (are here) because we want to see some accountability ... the businesses are being affected and the residents’ main thoroughfare is being torn up. We have employees who can’t park, we have customers who can’t park, and vendors who can’t make deliveries. We are suffering,” said Angie Preisendorfer, co-owner of Rusty Surfboard. “We know infrastructure has to be repaired and we can’t stop it, but it would be nice if the City was sensitive to our needs.”
Work has been underway since fall 2013 to replace the outfall infrastructure at the end of Avenida de la Playa and upgrade the sewer and water lines under the main street and residential roads that feed into it. However, errors in engineering plans, delays and system failures have extended the construction timeline past its winter 2015 end-date. The new completion date is currently May 2017. Work in the Shores is subject to a summer construction moratorium, from Memorial Day (in May) to Labor Day (in September) during which crews are banned from working on projects. There is also a winter tourist season that takes place in November and December, during which area businesses request no construction take place.
In January, a bio-filter box under Avenida de la Playa at El Paseo Grande overloaded during a rainstorm and flooded the street and some of the businesses. During the sit-in, concerned citizens watched as crews closed the intersection and the entire block west of it to remove that box so it could be replaced with piping.
“When City engineers came to us and said the system failed in January, they said they couldn’t start work until after the summer construction moratorium. So we were expecting for them to start the day after Labor Day and they would have been done by now,” Preisendorfer said. “October is dead down here, that’s why we have our Fall Fest in October, but November and December is busy with winter tourists (and holiday parties).”
Insisting there has been “no accountability” for the workplace errors or financial losses to businesses, Barbarella owner Barbara Beltaire opined, “It’s been horrible and it’s shameful on the City and the Mayor.” Following the sit-in, Beltaire added she would like to get a group together to participate in a similar protest at City Hall.
Jim Morris, owner of the La Jolla Shores Plaza building adjacent Laureate Park, suggested several ways the City could be accountable. Among them: A list of new cost estimates to complete work and regular report of expenses; a “realistic” timeline and penalty system should the contractor fail to meet project deadlines; new policies to assist with performance monitoring, reporting and information sharing; and changes to the City’s management capabilities of staff.