Site survey and soil study are called ‘prerequisites’ for La Jolla Shores beach access project

This accessway from Spindrift Drive to the beach will be studied to help decide how to proceed with an improvement project.
This accessway from Spindrift Drive to the beach in La Jolla Shores will be studied to help decide how to proceed with an improvement project.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Local architect says more information is needed before a volunteer working group can decide how to proceed with a long-sought renovation of the Spindrift Drive stairway.


The next step in a plan to renovate a deteriorating beach accessway off Spindrift Drive in La Jolla Shores is to look not at the surface of the walkway, but what lies beneath.

The project, in the works since 2018, is intended to improve conditions that have been blamed for slips and injuries over the years at the stairway between The Marine Room restaurant and a private residence. Walkers and swimmers often use it to get to the beach.

During an Aug. 10 meeting at the site with a volunteer working group looking to renovate the walkway to make it safer, several people spoke of a need for an updated survey of the property lines, a soil study of what is under the walkway, and a condition report about the nearby stormwater lines.

La Jolla architect Tom Grunow said he is working with area property owners to understand surveys that have taken place about applicable property lines and maps.

“I took one sheet with me that shows this walkway is supposed to be 6 feet wide, not 4 feet [which it currently is] … so the question is how does that six feet lay out [in relation to surrounding properties]?” Grunow said.

Ideally, he said, “a consultant would come in and do a topographical map and all the research to verify where the property line is” and advise about subsequent steps.

If Grunow is provided that information, he could do a feasibility assessment, he said.

A volunteer working group meets Aug. 10 to discuss how to proceed with a plan to renovate a nearby beach accessway.
A volunteer working group meets Aug. 10 to discuss how to proceed with a plan to renovate a nearby beach accessway off Spindrift Drive.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Resident Ray Weiss said surveying technology has “improved immensely” and could provide additional insights. “The most important thing is to get a reliable survey and find out what the facts are and go from there,” he said.

In addition to the survey, Grunow said a soil study would require drilling down to take a core sample and look at the geology of the walkway and “understand the water issues flowing under here.”

With that information, Grunow said, “the structural concrete people and the soils people should come together and brainstorm and work together to deal with the conditions.”

Getting a survey and a soil report are “prerequisites” for the project, he said. “Until we get our hands on those reports, we can’t design what we are going to do.”

Others in attendance agreed and said that if the project identifies areas of maintenance or repair of city of San Diego infrastructure — such as the storm drain system — it might open more funding opportunities and require fewer permits.

The surveying is expected to take six to nine months. In that time, working group president Kathleen Neil said, the group would identify additional sources of funding to cover the cost of the survey and soil study and supplement the funding that has already been provided by the city. Thus far, $100,000 has come from San Diego’s capital improvement projects list according to priorities set by City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

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

This widely used beach access has been blamed for slips and falls, prompting the idea of a redesign.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A plan in July 2022 called for a freestanding railing not attached to private property and for a redesign and rebuild of the decaying lower stairs. That design was approved last 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.

However, in June, La Jollan Patrick Ahern, who is shepherding the project with Neil, said that because the newest plan involves adding to the accessway beyond its current end point, the California Coastal Commission could not support it and a redesign would be necessary.

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