City delays Midway Bluff Repair for more environmental tests

After a glimmer of hope that work on the Midway Bluff repair project might begin this fall (and be finished in early 2016), an unforeseen delay and subsequent “trickle down” effect postponed the start of work until likely February 2016.

The Midway Bluff Repair Project manager George Freiha attended the Sept. 1 Bird Rock Community Council (BRCC) meeting at Bird Rock Sushi & Oyster to explain the delays and new schedule for the project Bird Rock residents have been anticipating for more than a decade.

the project will restore the overlook at the end of Midway Street that began to erode 15 years ago. Heavy rains, coupled with a blockage to the drainpipe, caused the water to flood the bluffs and accelerate erosion. A fence went up five years ago to keep people at a safe distance. As part of the restoration project, a support wall will be built, the area will be landscaped and an ADA-compliant travel ramp installed, along with a concrete path.

Although design plans were set in may, Freiha said, the city’s Development Services Department (DSD) had additional questions about the project’s environmental impacts, and required more information. “the city requested more field and soil testing, along with a drainage study to answer the questions posed by DSD, which required more consultants, which lead to a little delay,” he said.

Freiha added that to account for the additional expenses (he did not disclose the cost the delays would add to the project), he and his team would work with the city’s infrastructure committee and the San Diego City Council to garner extra funds. However, the City Council takes a five-week recess from Aug. 10 to Sept. 16, and will not have a chance to review the revised plans that include DSD concerns and recommend additional funding until they return. “And now everything is stacked on their desks for them to get to,” he said. With City Council approval, the project will next require a Coastal Commission permit before workers can break ground, which Freiha was told would likely be in February. However, he said he is hopeful they could speed through the permitting process and begin in December. “The mayor’s office has worked to get this project on the fast track,” he said.

Construction is expected to take six months, with work hours 7:30 a.m. to about 4 p.m. monday through Friday. the foliage will be replaced with drought-resistant landscaping, Freiha said, but will require 26 months of plant establishment and watering. Afterward, the city’s Department of Parks & Rec will assume maintenance. Freiha said if things move along and

there is nothing new to report, he would send an e-mail to BRCC president Jacqueline bell, but if things “change direction,” he would be back for an update. “We are keeping our fingers crossed that all that comes through on schedule,” he said.

In other BRCC news

Thieves are targeting cars: The Bird Rock Neighborhood Watch Chair reported in the weeks leading up to the meeting, Bird Rock and La Jolla saw a significant increase in car thefts and theft of property from cars. “people are not locking their cars and leaving valuables in plain sight,” she said.

Speaking later with La Jolla Light, San Diego police Department Community relations Officer Larry Hesselgesser said when looking to steal property from a car, thieves look for electronic devices, such as ipads, cell phones and GpS; coins and other forms of money; sunglasses; laptop computers; and gym bags.

piggybacking on the public safety report, bird rock resident Joe LaCava said he has been working with police to better understand their protocol.

“I went on a ride-along a couple of weeks ago, that gave some insight as to why La Jolla doesn’t get much attention,” he said. “When you look at the call sheet of what officers are supposed to respond to (you see why) they don’t always get to the things that affect our quality of life, like noisy neighbors, noisy parties, alcohol use, suspected burglars. police have much more violent — and much more serious — crimes to go after. because they are understaffed, they don’t always get to those things that are more relevant to us in La Jolla. It was quite an eye-opener.”

Push for community engagement: LaCava, candidate for City Council District 1 in 2016, also spoke about the importance of joining community advisory groups, noting specifically the La Jolla Community planning Association ad-hoc committee on “mansionization,” formed to address what some see as a proliferation of large, boxy houses in bird rock.

When it comes to addressing a certain issue, LaCava said, “It’s important for La Jollans to come together and figure out what the right solution is. City Hall is tired of La Jolla, they see La Jollans as complaining all the time and they don’t take our issues seriously.

“You want to know why it takes 10 years to get the midway bluff fixed? because the city is tired of us complaining. The challenge for us is, we have is to come together as La Jollans, figure out what we want to do, come to a solution, and take that solution, wrap it up and hand it to the city. We need to say ‘we’ve had our own internal fight, here is a solution we can agree on that we want you to implement,’ that, the city will listen to.”

Bird Rock joins cell tower bill fight: Voicing concern about Assembly bill 57 — which would give wireless communications companies near carte blanche authority to install new cell phone antennas and related equipment in excess of La Jolla’s 30-foot height limit without public notice or chance for appeal — bird rock resident David Haney encouraged those in attendance to e-mail the governor’s office to veto Ab 57.

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“Each tower brings the city a franchise fee, I don’t know what it is, but I estimate its around $1,000 per unit per month. San Diego has sold its soul for 30 pieces of silver,” Haney said.