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SLIPPERY SLOPE: Private fundraisers propose handrail to remedy ‘dangerous’ La Jolla Shores beach access

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La Jolla resident Jill Peters points with her umbrella at the location for a railing proposed by Members of Friends of the Spindrift Drive Beach Access, a citizens group that also includes Tom Grunow, Patrick Ahern and Dori McCue.
(COREY LEVITAN)

The southwestern entrance to La Jolla Shores Beach is a public danger, according to Friends of the Spindrift Drive Beach Access (FOSDBA), a private citizens group fundraising to remedy the situation.

The long and narrow beach access, situated between the Barbey residence and The Marine Room on Spindrift Drive, is frequently slick with sand and wet leaves and slopes unpredictably downward just before the beach — into two sets of uneven and crumbling stairs. At night, when unlit, the slippery slope and stairs are nearly impossible to see. At high tide, they’re frequently underwater.

In 2010, La Jolla resident Annette Ritchie-Buis slipped on the walkway, according to an e-mail she sent to FOSDBA member Robert McCue. This caused her pain, bleeding and a large welt the size of an orange.

“As a result and to this day,” Ritchie-Buis wrote, “I have a scar and indentation on my skin (and) I do not have any feeling in that area.”

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Ten members of FOSDBA, which claims 32 members including La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) chair Ann Dynes, gathered on a rainy Dec. 5 at the access to strategize. (Nobody slipped, by the way.) They agreed on a tentative solution proposed by Grunow Construction owner Tom Grunow: a bronze handrail, laid out in two sections, 30 feet and 8 feet, beginning at the steep drop-off.

“That would take care of two-thirds of the unsafe conditions,” Grunow said.

The group believes that the access had a rail at some point, but that it rusted away and was never replaced by the City, which owns the easement.

“We decided it would be best not to go with the City, in order to get it done more quickly,” said FOSDBA member Patrick Ahern, “and to get it done the way that people who use it want it done.”

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Bill Kellogg, who owns The Marine Room and La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club next door, offered his conditional support of the plan.

“It’s probably a good idea,” he told the Light. “We don’t have a concern with it — other than if the City decides to make it ADA-compliant and we have to take out Marine Room parking to put in zig-zag ramps.”

Grunow said that concrete work on the steps, which was initially discussed by the group but rejected as too expensive, would have triggered the requirement to bring the access up to code. However, he said, with just a handrail, “you don’t really have any structural issues, you don’t have any code-compliance issues.”

The cost will land just north of $8,000, Grunow said, to which Ahern replied that he already has $3,000 in commitments ($1,000 each from Susie Barbey, Ann Craig and — donating as a private citizen — City Council member Barbara Bry.) He also said he had the support of the La Jolla Community Planning Association and the San Diego Lifeguards. (Dynes confirmed the support of LJP&B.)

The next step for the group, Ahern said, is to get letters of support written by the community groups — especially La Jolla Shores Association, since the access falls within its jurisdiction.


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