Slurry Seals on Coastal Streets: La Jolla residents concerned about debris near the ocean

A resident shows the chipping slurry that is present on her street, ahead of a City project to re-slurry the street in the coming months.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

At least two Olivetas Street residents are concerned with some planned slurry work set to take place this summer and are calling into question whether the black surface material is the best way to go for repairs to coastal streets.

During a walk-through with La Jolla Light, the residents (who requested anonymity) pointed out areas where the existing slurry has chipped and gets swept to the side of the road, from a slurry coating the City did within the last few years.

Slurry Seal is a pavement preservation method consisting of an asphalt emulsion, sand and rock that is applied to the street surface at about a quarter of an inch thick.

However, as the slurry deteriorates, “It also comes off as dust, and mixes with the moisture in the air and coats the sides of houses and gets on cars,” one resident said, adding she recently had to repaint the front gating of her house due to the black dust, and often has to spray down her plants.

The other resident reported needing to spray down the side of her house and hose her driveway every few days due to the accumulation.

Furthermore, due to the proximity to the ocean, the residents are worried the street bits that chip and the slurry dust goes into the ocean. “There is also a gardener who uses a leaf blower to clean up, and the dust gets blown into the air,” one said.

Their concern was spurred when the City distributed notices indicating the street would be re-paved with slurry this summer.

The notice indicates: “Over the next two to three months, American Asphalt will complete a preventative maintenance effort that will address pavement cracks and add slurry seal to help preserve streets … Work will be performed between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.”

“No Parking” signs will be posted 48 hours before work is set to begin.

The notice continues: “Slurry seal has a light brown color when it is first applied to the street. It changes color to black after a few hours of exposure to sunlight and heat. That change is important and helps confirm that the newly sealed street is ready for vehicle traffic. … Slurry seal is used to protect streets in generally good condition from further deterioration and does not return streets to ‘as new’ condition. Slurry seal helps extend a street’s life by three to five years. Complete replacements are limited to those streets in very poor condition.”

The notice also depicts two streets cleanly covered in a smooth slurry.

Still, both residents were left wondering whether the City’s slurry seal for streets is the most appropriate and environmentally friendly way to repair streets near the coast.

Inquiries to the City as to whether there is an alternative for the coast or the impact of slurry dust to the ocean were not returned by deadline.

However, according to the City’s website: “In making the decision on which streets to include on resurfacing contracts citywide, the City relies in part on a Pavement Management System to generate an Overall Condition Index (OCI) for every section of roadway in the city. Pavement condition data such as distress (cracking), rutting, and roughness are collected on all streets and input into the Pavement Management System to generate the OCI.

“The OCI is then used in connection with other variables such as traffic volume, type of road, maintenance history, other capital project conflicts and allocated funding levels to prioritize a list of streets to pave.”

Some streets in the surrounding area have been broken up and repaved with smooth concrete. However, once a street is paved with concrete, a five-year moratorium is initiated in which no work can be done that would necessitate trenching or other form of concrete breaking. It is not known if there is a project planned for the street in the coming years that would prevent the street from paving it with concrete.