City officials meet with La Jolla Shores board to discuss utility project

At the Sept. 10 La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) meeting, residents and business owners came together to discuss possible night work suggested by merchants for an upcoming utility construction project on Avenida de la Playa, the Shores’ main thoroughfare.

As part of Group Job 809, sewer and water lines must be replaced down the middle of Avenida de la Playa. Merchants, including owners of restaurants with outdoor seating, suggested the work be done at night to minimize impact from dust, noise and lack of parking.

Project manager Sarah Chavez said, “We’ve been speaking to residents and our neighborhood code compliance to see if day work, night work — or a combination of the two — would be best.”

To proceed with a night work permit, all businesses and residences within 500 feet must be considered, so project managers are in the process of gathering applicable addresses and sending out letters.

Recipients are encouraged to respond within a two-week window. Based on the responses, project managers can make a decision and propose a schedule.

At the LJSA meeting, some residents voiced opposition to night work, but seemed amenable to 24-hour, round-the-clock work to speed the process.

Speaking as both a resident and a business owner, Café Solange owner Christian Malecot called the non-stop construcion schedule a justifyable solution. “It’s not fair for the residents to only work at night, and it’s not fair for the businesses to only work during the day, so let’s share the pain and deal with this all together,” he said. “We could share the burden and (have crews) work during the day and at night.”

Steve Lindsay, senior construction engineer for the City of San Diego, said day- and-night work is possible, but would be contingent on the night work permit.

Although still facing construction impacts, some residents and business owners feel the total construction schedule would be shortened if the work hours were extended. “If they can get through the area in a month instead of five months, then let them do it,” LJSA chair Tim Lucas said. “We can suffer for a month or a little more, but we cannot suffer for three or four months — especially if it’s unknown (when construction will be done).”

The construction schedule, though ever changing, has work starting on Avenida de la Playa in mid-November, with expected completion in spring 2015. However, construction would not be taking place every day of that period.

Lindsay noted a 30-day window, while pipes are settling. “Once the sewer is laid, we have to wait 30 days to make sure the pipes work before we can repave the whole street,” he said.

As far as advanced notice of work, Lindsay said he could only provide projections in three-week increments. Aiming for proactivity, Surf Diva co-owner and LJSA member Izzy Tihanyi said with enough notice, store owners could close up shop for the day when their businesses would be most impacted, send employees home, and use the down time to make store improvements, such as painting interiors.

In another proactive effort, Malecot announced Café Solange would offer take- out options for those who want to patronize the business but not be disturbed by construction activity.

Hoping for continued support through the project, Ocean Girl owner Terry Kraszewski said, “Please come visit us, even if it’s a mess!”

In other LJSA news:

– Shores Fall Fest will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, when restaurants along Avenida de la Playa will provide samples, as well as games, prizes and activities for children.

– In memory of Sue Geller, LJSA member Janie Emerson took the opportunity to praise the community activist, who passed away Aug. 4 at age 86. “Sue was an amazing woman ... She was involved in land-use issues right up until the end,” Emerson said. “It shows what one person can do. At one of our meetings we heard the DecoBike issue, and she was one of the number of us who opposed it ... DecoBike subsequently pulled out of the Shores and out of La Jolla completely. So when you get discouraged about an issue or feel like you are the only one out there, don’t stop. One person does make a difference and the ripple effect is tremendous.”