Proposal for Spindrift Drive beach stairs slips on question of funding

A project to redesign deteriorating stairs at the Spindrift Drive beach access has raised funding questions.
(Screenshot by Elisabeth Frausto)

The La Jolla Shores Association delayed a vote this week on the direction of funding for a plan to reconstruct the stairs at the beach accessway next to The Marine Room restaurant off Spindrift Drive.

The planned repairs, in the works since 2018, are intended to improve conditions that have resulted in slips and injuries over the years, according to the project’s supporters.

The original plan called for a handrail to be affixed to a neighboring building, but that changed because of liability concerns for the property owner.

A July plan called for a freestanding railing not attached to private property and for a redesign and rebuild of the deteriorating lower stairs.

The design was approved in August by both LJSA and the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee.

The latest plan dispenses with a handrail — though La Jollan Patrick Ahern, the project lead, said one could still be put up if needed or wanted.

During a review of the project at the Oct. 12 LJSA meeting, Ahern said the current design includes reconstructing the stairs so they descend slowly, inserting a landing after every two stairs.

Current redesign plans for the Spindrift Drive beach access feature landings every two stairs and no handrail.
(Screenshot by Elisabeth Frausto)

The design, done in collaboration with local resident and beach access advocate Kurt Hoffman, will continue the stairs at the corner of the residence on the left side of the access.

The length of the landings, Ahern said, negates the need for a handrail.

“It’ll be just a gentle walk down,” he said.

The entire project is expected to cost $170,000. The first $100,000 is to come via the city of San Diego’s capital improvement projects list according to priorities set by City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

At the time the $100,000 was earmarked, the design was simply a handrail on the existing stairs, said LaCava’s field representative Steve Hadley.

“We thought [the $100,000] should have covered it,” Hadley said. The new design, however, “is obviously going to take a little more money than that.”

Ahern asked for LJSA approval to seek the rest of the funding from private sources, which would allow project developers to maintain control of it, he said.

Through private funding, “we can get the project done the way we want it as a benefit to all the community visitors and the city of San Diego,” Ahern said.

He added that the project might be completed faster and with higher quality than if entirely publicly funded.

LJSA President Janie Emerson said a combination of city funds and donations would make the project a “public-private hybrid” that would “dilute control.”

LaCava said at the meeting that “we’re willing to have a conversation with [city] staff as to what options exist” for a project publicly and privately funded.

He added that the project might need a coastal development permit through the California Coastal Commission, as it involves construction in the beach area.

Such a requirement would “slow the process down, and it may impact the design as well,” Emerson said.

Since there isn’t “100 percent clarity on how the funding is going to work … I don’t think we can really vote on it,” she said.

She encouraged Ahern, Hoffman and others involved to “go back and look at all the different possibilities for funding and prioritize them and find out what’s possible.”

Ahern said he would follow that advice and return in November for a vote on funding.

Other LJSA news

New police captain: The San Diego Police Department’s Northern Division, which includes La Jolla, has a new captain. Erwin Manansala took over Sept. 17 from Capt. Scott Wahl after Wahl’s transfer to operational support.

In his brief introduction to LJSA, Manansala said he’s “looking forward to working with everyone here.”

Manansala previously worked in the Northern Division as a sergeant and lieutenant, he said.

Lifeguard update: San Diego Fire-Rescue Lt. Lonnie Stephens said “things have slowed down a bit” for the lifeguard staff on La Jolla beaches since the end of summer.

“Your lifeguards are really starting to focus on some dedicated training which will enhance their skills for our rescue operation,” Stephens said.

Lifeguard tryouts for seasonal positions will be held Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 20-22, at Venture Cove on Mission Bay, he said. To sign up, visit

Board election: Emerson said LJSA is looking for trustees for six available seats in its election in March.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Shores Association next meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, online. To learn more, visit