Bird Rock bluff collapses


A 20 to 30-foot section of concrete fell about 40 feet onto Bird Rock Beach Thursday, Jan. 31 around 2 p.m. The collapse occurred at the edge of a small cul-de-sac near the 5900 block of Camino de la Costa.

Friday morning, city workers cordoned off the area, including stairs leading down to the beach. Additional repairs are pending further investigation of damages, which include a portion of sidewalk hanging over open space.

No one was injured as a result of the collapse, but Maurice Luque, San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesperson, said it was a close call for two women who were warned away.

“It’s just not good common sense to walk under cliffs,” Luque said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Erosion is a natural process, one frequently seen in La Jolla.

“I think we appreciate both the natural beauty and the vulnerability of coastal bluffs,” said Joe Lacava, president of the Bird Rock Community Council. “In general we are certainly aware that the coastal bluffs are susceptible to natural phenomenon.”

Newer building codes provide for an appropriate setback, but older homes situated near bluffs are at increased risk.

The concrete chunks that fell during Thursday’s collapse may have been part of a sea wall installed to reinforce the cliff.

As regulatory authority, the city of San Diego will be responsible for investigating the collapse and determining whether they or a nearby homeowner are accountable for clean-up and repairs.

Neighborhood residents had mixed reactions to the event.

One local said this section of Camino de la Costa has been a danger for years, with city officials refusing to issue permits so improvements could be made.

Another expressed concern that frequent parking of massive construction vehicles in the cul-de-sac and/or heavy water runoff directed to a drain at the edge of the cliff may have hastened the erosion.

Bill Harris, deputy press secretary of the office of Mayor Jerry Sanders, said no formal report will be made, due to the frequency of such events.

“Generally, coastal bluffs in San Diego are very unstable,” Harris said. “With so many miles of coast line, we have rock falls and undermining quite a bit. It’s not unusual.”

An estimate of damages was not available, Harris said, and reconstruction plans are contingent on the immediate need for safety.

A similar collapse in the same area occurred about six years ago. Owners of the home adjacent to the cul-de-sac did not respond to a request for comment, but one family member said for years their attorney attempted, unsuccessfully, to gain permission from the city to shore up not only their land, but the cul-de-sac, as well.

“It’s not just affecting our property; it’s affecting the whole street,” the resident said.