Handrail plan for La Jolla Shores beach access is expanded to include stairs reconstruction

The beach access corridor at Spindrift Drive in La Jolla Shores
A handrail and stair reconstruction project is being proposed to improve safety in the beach access corridor at Spindrift Drive in La Jolla Shores.
(Courtesy of Patrick Ahern)

A project to add a handrail to an often-slippery beach access next to The Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla Shores has been expanded to include reconstruction of the stairs leading to the beach. The proposal will be making the rounds to La Jolla planning groups and the city of San Diego for review.

The project is intended to create a landing that would be easier for beach-goers to navigate.

For the record:

3:34 p.m. July 5, 2022This article was updated to correct the photo credit.

The walkway off Spindrift Drive currently has a “very dangerous, steep section” that begins halfway down, La Jollan Patrick Ahern said. Constant shade keeps the ground very moist, creating a slippery path further deteriorated by sand. He said several people have fallen on the walkway and suffered injuries.

The handrail project was approved by the La Jolla Shores Association and La Jolla Community Planning Association in late 2018, with the support of neighbors and lifeguards. Then-City Councilwoman Barbara Bry added it to San Diego’s capital improvement projects list after LJCPA named it a top project in 2019.

The plan was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ahern said, but has been restarted with the formation of a working group under LJSA.

In May, Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, was granted $100,000 from the city’s Coastal Erosion and Access Fund to assist. The fund provides for improvements to coastal infrastructure or “coastal erosion sites that present potential public hazards.”

With that funding, the plan can be “further defined” to address “the dangerous, decomposed crumbling stairs,” Ahern told the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group during its June 27 meeting.

“Instead of rebuilding the runs on the stairs … we could push it out further so there are three steps, then a landing of three or four feet, then three steps and another landing,” he said. “The stairs are in such terrible shape that they need to be completely demolished and … build new stairs and then put more stairs along the retaining wall so you have access to the beach even in the wintertime, when the sand is [receded] and there is a 2-foot drop there. This would eliminate the need for railings, but for those that want an additional railing, one could be placed further out and not be attached to private property.”

The handrail component has created hiccups in the past. The original intent was to put the railing along one of the properties on either side of the access, but the property owner would assume liability. So the project evolved to include a freestanding railing not attached to private property.

However, because of the condition of the stairs to which the railing would be affixed, frequent La Jolla beach-goer Kurt Hoffman drafted the plan for a new step-and-landing arrangement and sought estimates from contractors.

He told LJP&B that the latest figure is $95,000.

The project also received just over $4,000 from the city’s Community Projects, Programs and Services funds, which are awarded for projects in each council district.

With the revised plan, Ahern said the next step is to gain consensus with local community groups and then present it to the city. The next presentation and possible vote will be at the La Jolla Shores Association meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 13, online.

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