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Shores Permit Review Committee hears plans for ‘trash fences’ but withholds vote

Planned locations for trash fences near Torrey Pines Road and Soledad Avenue
Planned locations for trash fences near Torrey Pines Road and Soledad Avenue were presented to the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee during its July 18 meeting.
(Courtesy of Think Blue)

Plans to install “trash fences” along Torrey Pines Road and Soledad Avenue went before the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee during its July 18 meeting but will be going back so the board can see renderings and get more information about the fences’ maintenance.

The project calls for installing a fence in front of two storm drain inlets near 2898 Torrey Pines Road and another near 2075 Soledad Ave. The fences are designed to catch debris before it reaches downstream pipes and area beaches.

For the record:

9:06 a.m. July 20, 2022This article has been changed to correct the height of the proposed Torrey Pines Road fence.

At the Soledad Avenue site, the fence is proposed to be 15 feet wide and 4 feet tall, held in place by four concrete-secured posts. Roman Anissi of the city of San Diego’s Stormwater Department said the fence would not be visible from the street.

At the Torrey Pines Road site, the fence would be 10 feet wide and 2 feet tall. Gravel bags would be double-stacked at the downstream headwall to prevent any incidental debris from being carried downstream during construction. All work would be done with hand tools.

To camouflage the fences, engineers would use hedges and green vinyl wrapping, though city representatives were unsure which fence would get which treatment.

Committee member Janie Emerson said that without a rendering of what the fencing would look like from Torrey Pines Road, she could not vote on the project. “I need to know what this is going to look like when we walk by it,” she said.

She added that the board has not seen an environmental impact report associated with construction of the fence near Soledad Avenue, on a hillside.

The project is being executed as part of the city’s Municipal Waterways Maintenance Plan. “We’re trying to do maintenance before we find ourselves in an emergency situation,” Anissi said, and the fences can gather more debris that a sewer grate.

Once the fences are built, maintenance crews will be assigned to clean them and remove the debris that gets collected, Anissi said, and the public can notify the city when the fencing needs care.

Emerson’s “biggest concern” centered not as much on construction of the fencing but the removal of the debris it collects and the maintenance. She expressed worry that the city would not deliver on its promise, citing maintenance at La Jolla Parkway and Torrey Pines Road as an example.

Some of the medians in that area — known as “The Throat” — are maintained by Aztec Landscaping of Lemon Grove, which is tasked with inspecting irrigation, removing litter and weeds, and pruning shrubs and ground cover every two weeks under a contract with San Diego. But community leaders complained recently that the maintenance wasn’t being done, and they worked with the city to try to improve performance and accountability.

“We pay $41,000 a year to a third-party vendor [Aztec] to keep The Throat clean and maintained, but it was obvious [to me] that they hadn’t done anything for a number of years,” Emerson said. “So the city’s record of doing things and then maintaining them is not good.

“Seeing these [fences] full of debris and backed up on a regular basis is a very real possibility. For me, you are going to have to do better than this to get approval.”

She said she supports what the city is doing but needs more information. “I’m worried about how it looks and whether it will be adequately maintained or if it will become a trash dump.”

The city intends to do the work outside of breeding season for area birds, which is Jan. 15 to Sept. 15 annually. With that schedule in mind, the city agreed to return at a future meeting with images, any available ecological reports and a phone number to report maintenance issues.

The La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15, likely online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆