Avenida de la Playa: Residents upset over construction setbacks in La Jolla Shores

By Ashley Mackin

Avenida de la Playa, the main street through the business district of La Jolla Shores, is undergoing what some are calling “a perfect storm of construction.” The ongoing Avenida de la Playa Infrastructure Project has suffered yet another setback, leaving some residents to question whether the work will be completed by Memorial Day (May 26), the start of the summer construction moratorium.

The project involves replacing the storm drain at the end of Avenida de la Playa where the street meets the beach, aka The Boat Launch, and working east to repair the sewer and water pipes leading up to it.

But some residents and business owners along Avenida de la Playa say there was insufficient public notice and inadequate representa- tion for the scale of the work being done. After overcoming delays that put the project behind schedule last month, additional surprises put certain phases of construction on pause. Chiefly, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) unexpectedly needed to come in to relocate and place power and gas lines underground.

Hanan Eisenman, SDG&E Communications Manager, said the storm drain work would cross the path of power and gas lines that would have to be relocated so the project can move forward. He said for projects in the public right-of- way, SDG&E does not typically give residents notices, but placed “No Parking” signs in front of the affected areas 48 hours in advance to indicate work activity.

One Avenida de la Playa resident and landlord, Nicole Goedhart, asserts the impacts to her property merited additional outreach from both the city and SDG&E.

“My first knowledge about the (Avenida de la Playa Infrastructure) project was a door hanging early in the new year left by the city regarding the project, with just a generic description with contact information; nothing, by the way, from SDG&E. It wasn’t until Tim Lucas (La Jolla Shores Association chair) came to my door in March and talked to me in person, that I had any idea of the huge impact this project would directly have on me, my family and my tenants,” she said.

The impacts include much noise and dust, as her property is on a corner adjacent to the block under construction; the installation of a water shut-off unit that required the removal of her decorative bricks; installation of electrical boxes alongside the property; and being awakened as early as 6 a.m. each morning. In addition, she and her tenants have limited, if any, access to their garages (some losing parking).

“No one had any idea that our lives would be this disrupted,” she said.

When it came to parking impacts, she said city engineers advised her to look into parking alternatives for the duration of construction. She and other property managers reached out to the nearby La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, which agreed to let residents impacted by parking limitations use spaces in their facility as temporary day parking and overnight parking.

“I could have put up with all of this if someone had given us the courtesy of a heads-up,” she said. “All this could have been solved if we knew about this ahead of time and there wouldn’t be this panic situation.”

The SDG&E work halted the installation of box culverts — large cement square-shaped structures that allow water to flow under a road, which are embedded and surrounded by soil — along the westernmost end of Avenida de la Playa, extending the time in which Goedhart’s property is impacted.

Monica Munoz, senior public information officer for San Diego Public Works, said of the work to be conducted in the meantime, “HPS Mechanical, the contractor for the project, will replace as much of the sewer and water lines as it can during the box culvert delay and HPS, along with the city engineering staff, are working on ways to accelerate the construction schedule after SDG&E moves out of the area.”

Before crews can proceed with culvert installation, which was scheduled the week of April 21, they had to reset the culverts already installed. An e-mail to residents from LJSA chair Lucas states, “A decision was made that the installed sections of culvert for the first block of Avenida de la Playa would need to be removed and reset 10 inches lower. They had been installed according to the engineering plan, but that plan, it appears, did not address the drainage issues properly. Sometimes plans do not work in the field. ... The important thing to note is that the city and the contractors are committed to getting this job done correctly, so that there is proper drainage in the event of a large storm that overwhelms the storm drain system.”

To move the culverts, a multi-ton crane was set up at the intersection of Avenida de la Playa and Camino Del Oro, which Munoz said residents can expect to see “for several weeks.”

Munoz added, “All agencies do their best to coordinate work schedules and efforts but until the street is dug up we don’t necessarily know what additional challenges we may encounter.”

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