‘Neglected by the city’: La Jolla Town Council looks for answers from San Diego about street repairs
The group votes to send a letter to Mayor Todd Gloria asking for a response to questions after city officials speak at a forum on road conditions.
The La Jolla Town Council wants answers from the city of San Diego about potholes and road disrepair.
The Town Council voted Feb. 9 to send a letter to Mayor Todd Gloria asking for a response to questions about repair decisions, processes and funding after his community representative and other city officials spoke that evening during a forum about the roads.
Town Council President Jerri Hunt said the forum was planned amid heightened concern about deteriorating streets following recent rainstorms that left myriad potholes in their wake.
Emily Piatanesi, Gloria’s representative for City Council District 1, which includes La Jolla, said “the mayor gave the [city] Transportation Department direction to move additional crews to work on potholes, given the recent rainstorms.”
Normally, she said, the city has 20 staff members working on potholes but has increased that to 150.
“I have been working closely with Steve Hadley from [District 1 City] Council member [Joe] LaCava’s office to make sure that we’re generating a list of any pothole repair concerns,” Piatanesi said.
Roadwork in San Diego
Jorge Riveros, director of the Transportation Department, said types of street repairs include:
• Pothole patching and partial-block paving
• Slurry sealing, a preventive maintenance technique that “doesn’t have longevity”
• Asphalt paving or overlay, in which crews grind down one to three inches of asphalt and replace it with a fresh layer
• Concrete replacement from curb to curb
• Full street reconstruction, in conjunction with the city’s Engineering & Capital Projects Department
Riveros said pothole patches are intended to last one or two seasons, depending on factors including the size of the pothole, the traffic volume on the street and the materials used (which can be a hot or cold mix of bituminous asphalt or one of several proprietary blends from local vendors).
“It’s not meant to be a permanent fix,” he said.
Riveros added that it takes about 12 days for a pothole to be fixed when reported through the city’s Get It Done app.
“You need to go in there and actually … redo some of these roads. ... We need to look at long-term solutions and not just short-term.”
— La Jolla Town Council trustee Chuck Merriman
Mohsen Maali, assistant deputy director of the Engineering & Capital Projects Department, said “there is no single contractor” for the city’s street repairs.
“Contractors are selected publicly,” Maali said, and “the contracts are awarded publicly” following a bidding process.
All entities, public or private, that excavate in the roadway are required to repair and restore the excavated portions, he said.
Choosing the roads for repair
Roads in the city’s 3,000-mile network are classified into three categories (good, fair or poor) using the 100-point OCI (overall condition index) rating system, Riveros said.
Streets are selected for slurry seal or overlay based on their OCI, traffic load, maintenance history, proximity to emergency facilities, schools and tourist attractions, and coordination with other construction projects.
Town Council trustee Suzanne Baracchini said “La Jolla is an international tourist attraction; it is heavily promoted by the city of San Diego’s Tourism Authority,” indicating La Jolla roads would get higher priority than some others, according to the city’s criteria.
“How much of those tourist dollars are you looking at to fund these infrastructure repairs?” Baracchini asked.
Piatanesi said she would take the question back to Gloria’s office.
The project will resurface La Jolla Parkway between Hidden Valley Road and Interstate 5. Because of daytime traffic, the work will need to be done at night, officials say.
“We don’t really have a dedicated source of funding” for street repairs, Riveros said. “That’s what makes it difficult,” along with price increases on materials.
“We use a lot of the general fund that comes in from the taxes that come into the city,” he said, along with gas taxes and funding from the state and other sources such as TransNet, a half-cent sales tax for local transportation projects administered by the San Diego Association of Governments that was first approved by voters in 1987 and extended in 2004 for 40 years.
Caryn McGriff, assistant director of the Engineering & Capital Projects Department, said the city’s “transportation asset needs are expected to be just over $2 billion for the next five years. [San Diego has] approximately $350 million of dedicated funding for transportation.”
McGriff said the city has developed a prioritization policy that “establishes a framework around which we can … objectively evaluate all the merits of the project, the project readiness, the safety, the condition of the asset” when recommending which projects to fund.
“[The city’s] transportation asset needs are expected to be just over $2 billion for the next five years. [San Diego has] approximately $350 million of dedicated funding for transportation.”
— Caryn McGriff, assistant director of San Diego Engineering & Capital Projects Department
Piatanesi said “we need to identify a strict funding source that’s for overlays. So that’s something we are looking at, [but] unfortunately, with the way the economy is, we are going into a budget deficit.”
But trustee Chuck Merriman said “these roads are beyond … preventive maintenance. This is years of deferred maintenance that has been neglected by the city, by administrations of all sorts.”
“You need to go in there and actually … redo some of these roads,” Merriman said. “We’re really kicking the problem down the road for future generations. We need to look at long-term solutions and not just short-term.”
City staff did not provide an answer.
Town Council Vice President Rick Dagon moved for the group to send a letter to Gloria asking for a response to the questions raised during the evening. The motion was approved unanimously.
Other Town Council news
More trustees coming: The Town Council passed a motion to amend its bylaws to increase the number of trustees from 18 to 23.
“We have an increase in interest and additional duties on the council,” Hunt said.
Next meeting: The La Jolla Town Council next meets at 5 p.m., Thursday, March 9, online and at the La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St. To learn more, visit lajollatowncouncil.org.◆
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