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State giving $2 million to Camino de la Costa stairs repair in La Jolla

Rusted rebar and crumbling concrete plague the oceanside stairway from Camino de la Costa in La Jolla.
Rusted rebar and crumbling concrete plague the oceanside stairway from Camino de la Costa in La Jolla’s Lower Hermosa neighborhood.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Part of California’s new budget is set aside to repair a crumbling staircase that leads to the ocean.

When California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the state’s new $308 billion budget into law on June 30, a small slice of it was set aside to repair a crumbling staircase that leads to the ocean from Camino de la Costa in La Jolla’s Lower Hermosa neighborhood.

The staircase has been falling apart for years, to the point that the concrete is crumbling and the rebar is rusted.

“It really is a mess and it has been a mess for a long time and is only going to get worse,” local resident and urbanist Trace Wilson told the Bird Rock Community Council during its July 5 meeting.

As part of this year’s budget, the state will give the city of San Diego $2 million for the “Camino de la Costa viewpoint coastal and beach access” project, which could be used to repair the stairs.

From here, Wilson said, “the stairs need to be updated and brought up to the times. But it is going to be up to the community to push it along.”

Wilson said he would work to draft a conceptual plan to present to area planning groups and then deliver to the city for implementation.

So while the completion is still a ways away, “it is a huge step forward to know money has been allocated for the effort,” Wilson said.

Should the stairs repair cost less than $2 million, Wilson said he wants to use the excess funds to improve access to the overlook for people with disabilities.

Getting the funds was an emotional roller coaster for people seeking to get the accessway fixed.

“We started this process a year ago when we invited city representatives to see the stairs and … show them that the historic concrete rails are a mess,” Wilson said. “The whole thing is crumbling and the rebar is poking out. It needs to be rebuilt.”

In January, City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, issued a memo as part of the city’s budget process listing replacing the stairs at Camino de la Costa as a priority for funding.

“We were so excited at the prospect of the stairs [repair] getting funding,” Wilson said. “I told all the neighbors; everyone felt good about it.”

The concrete is crumbling alongside the Camino de la Costa stairway.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

However, the project ultimately was not included in the final city budget.

As an alternative, LaCava worked with state Sen. Toni Atkins to acquire money from the state budget.

In discussing the process at the BRCC meeting, LaCava’s field representative Steve Hadley said Atkins “is really looking out for us. … The state works on its budget at the same time the city does. The state representatives can come to us around this time of year and say, ‘Do you have a project [we can help fund]?’ and they let us know when there is money available … in the budget. That’s exactly what happened here.”

Atkins recommended that the project be funded by the state Department of Parks and Recreation. When the state budget was signed, the funding for the Camino de la Costa work came with it.

Wilson said having the state step in was “really heartening.” For a project of this scale, he added, “$2 million is a lot of money.”

Hadley said that figure was agreed on based on the cost of similar projects on the coast.

“At the end of the day, it is coastal access for everyone, and La Jolla is a regional destination for San Diego,” Wilson said. “This truly fits in with making the coast accessible to all. The state did a good thing by focusing on these amenities.” ◆