Spindrift Drive beach access project in La Jolla to be redesigned

Changes are proposed for the beach access next to The Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla Shores.
(Patrick Ahern)

The California Coastal Commission can’t support a plan to reconstruct the stairs so they descend slowly by inserting a landing after every two stairs, according to a local project proponent.


A plan to create a smoother path to a La Jolla Shores beach has hit a roadblock that will require a redesign of the project, adding time and possibly cost.

The project has been in the works since 2018. It is intended to improve conditions that have resulted in slips and injuries over the years at the stairway between The Marine Room restaurant and a private residence off Spindrift Drive. It often is used as a beach access for walkers and swimmers.

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

A plan last July called for a freestanding railing not attached to private property and for a redesign and rebuild of the deteriorating lower stairs. That design was approved in August by both the La Jolla Shores Association and the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee.

But a new plan presented in October proposed dispensing with a handrail and included reconstructing the stairs so they descend slowly by inserting a landing after every two stairs. The design would continue the stairs at the corner of the residence on the left side of the access.

But La Jollan Patrick Ahern, who is shepherding the Spindrift project with fellow volunteer Kathleen Neil, told the La Jolla Light that because the newest plan involves adding to the accessway beyond its current terminus, the California Coastal Commission could not support it.

“Because the new ramp was longer, it required a turn in front of the neighbor’s house,” Ahern said. “We learned that we can’t extend the ramp further than it already is.”

Thus, he and Neil formed a working group to brainstorm new design options and are working with the Shores Association to explore another plan.

“One idea is to take out what is there … and redo it, maybe with gentle steps starting at the top,” Ahern said. “Another approach will be to repair the steps below and adding a railing that wouldn’t make the walkway too narrow and would not touch the neighbor’s property [to avoid liability].”

A project intended to improve the stairway at the Spindrift Drive beach access in La Jolla Shores is again facing changes.

Anyone who wants to join the working group can email Neil at or attend monthly Shores Association meetings at which updates will be provided. LJSA meets at 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month on Zoom. For more information, visit

Ahern said he hopes to present new design options “as soon as possible” so they can be submitted to the city of San Diego for implementation.

Last year, the cost of the entire project was estimated at $170,000, with the first $100,000 coming from San Diego’s capital improvement projects list according to priorities set by City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

When the $100,000 was earmarked, the design was simply a handrail on the existing stairs, LaCava field representative Steve Hadley told LJSA in October.

“We thought [the $100,000] should have covered it,” Hadley said. The newer designs, however, would “take a little more money than that.”

Because the original and new projects were classified as capital improvements, the money can be retained until a new design is presented and approved. ◆