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City finds destroyed Coast Blvd. stairs an ‘emergency’ in La Jolla

Soon after winter storms blew the stairs apart, the city fenced off the access.
Soon after winter storms blew the stairs apart, the city fenced off the access.
(Light File)

The San Diego Public Works Department has approved a declaration that the obliterated staircase at 100 Coast Blvd. constitutes “an emergency” and will be treated as such in getting it repaired. City Council notification is currently being processed.

At the La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group (LJP&B) meeting June 27, members who were told the process could take years, breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement. A timeline for construction has not been confirmed, but San Diego Public Information officer Tim Graham said repairs will begin as soon as funding is identified.

Blown from their hinges by storms in early 2016, the stairs connect Coast Boulevard to a beach area known as The Horseshoe, on the north end of Marine Street Beach. Soon after the storms, the city fenced off the access and determined the stairs would have to be re-constructed from scratch, projecting a multiyear timeline for completion.

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Hoping to speed the process, a group headed by LJP&B member Nancy Linck formed and began meeting. Reporting on their progress, she told trustees, “We’ve had three meetings and explored all kinds of options to get the stairs repaired, but we were met with a number of roadblocks.” Among them: determining who was responsible for the construction; the location of engineering plans; lack of funds in the 2016 capital budget; whether the project would be classified as a complete replacement — in which case handicap access would have to be considered — or a repair, which could happen quickly and privately without Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

Focusing on the dangers created by not having stairs and hoping to bypass city hurdles, the group emphasized safety impacts in their communications with the city.

“The stairs provide access for lifeguards, fire-fighters and police to Marine Street, which is important because part of the year, the access at Marine Street itself is difficult because the sand is washed out. So the stairs at 100 Coast are an alternative,” Linck explained. “The only other option is way down Coast Boulevard, and at high tide, you cannot access the area. Several committee members reached out to the lifeguards and other safety personnel, who agreed that the missing stairs are a safety issue. The city needs to act immediately.”

The city listened.

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Council President Sherri Lightner told La Jolla Light, “I strongly support the decision to designate the Coast Boulevard stair replacement as an emergency. This is an important coastal access and public safety issue, and our office will continue to work with city staff to expedite this project.”

Added Graham, via e-mail, “A request has been submitted (and approved by the Public Works Department) that this project be given ‘emergency status’ due to public safety concerns as they relate to beach access for lifeguards and other public safety staff in the event of an emergency or if a water rescue was required in and around that stretch of beach. Designating a particular project with an ‘emergency’ status allows the city to assign a contractor (from a rotating list of those pre-qualified) instead of using a bid/award process, which would take more time. Additionally, it allows the environmental process to occur after the repairs. The ‘emergency’ status designation may also provide additional financial options that would allow the city to fund the project more quickly.”

As a backup, Linck drafted a letter explaining the safety issues identified by her committee for LJP&B to support for the record, and to be sent to the city, which the board voted to approve and send.

In other LJP&B news:

La Jolla Parks & Beaches member Ann Dynes tells the group an intern could help with landscaping projects.
La Jolla Parks & Beaches member Ann Dynes tells the group an intern could help with landscaping projects.
(Ashley Mackin)

— Projects intern accepted: To facilitate the landscaping associated with the Whale View Point Shoreline Enhancement Project and other LJP&B beautification tasks, the board agreed to take on an intern. The 25-year-old (whose name was not disclosed) is an advanced landscaping student requiring hands-on experience. His internship comes at the request of the German American Chamber of Commerce, California Chapter. With member Ann Dynes as the point of contact, the student will spend 15-20 hours a week on projects during August and September.

— Board defers jazz festival vote: After meeting with, and garnering a positive response from the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, RTE Productions event director David Payne presented to the LJP&B board, plans for a jazz festival in Scripps Park. “We’re looking to bring a high-end, culture and jazz festival to Scripps Park this December. We expect 2,500 people, and the event will be all reserved seating with about three acts per night for three nights,” he said. Half of the park would be kept open for public use.

With a history of producing events in outdoor venues, Payne said he was confident in his ability to deter unwanted noise and preserve the grass.

Although slated as an action item, the board decided to withhold a vote pending more information, such as a map with parking and staging to provide scale, confirmation that the proposed dates do not conflict with other events, and exploration of alternative sites.

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— Race plans denied: Plans for the Break Free Run race at Scripps Park were also heard, but denied because of a scheduling conflict. Proposed for Oct. 8, the same day as the La Jolla Art & Wine Festival, LJP&B members worried about having two large events in La Jolla at the same time. The Art & Wine Festival is not held in Scripps Park, but nearby along Girard Avenue.

The races, including a 5K, 10K and Kids Run, benefit programs that help with human trafficking prevention, recovery, restoration and reintegration, consistent with the mission of organizing group, 3Strands Global. The board said it would be open to hearing the item again should organizers propose a different date.

— Shack is back: Friends of WindanSea co-founder and LJP&B member Melinda Merryweather announced the historic WindanSea Shack has largely been replaced, after it was taken down ahead of the predicted El Niño storm, but fronds are still needed for the roof. “If you or anyone you know has a Canary Island Date Tree, please let us know. We need about 200, and as soon as the roof goes back on, we’re going to have a party.” She can be reached at lajollaparksandbeaches.org

WildCoast Conservation Director Zach Plopper holds the proposed sign to be posted near the entrance of the Marine Protected Area at La Jolla Cove.
WildCoast Conservation Director Zach Plopper holds the proposed sign to be posted near the entrance of the Marine Protected Area at La Jolla Cove.
(Ashley Mackin)

— New MPA signs coming: WildCoast Conservation Director Zach Plopper showed the board signs proposed for the entrance of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) at La Jolla Cove that outline updated rules and regulations. But before they can be placed, the language must be approved, a location must be decided upon, and the person with the authority to physically install the sign (LJP&B member Bill Robbins said he’s been ready to place the signs for more than a year) must be confirmed.

“As soon as we have that information, we’re good to go,” Plopper said. “The signage is in English and Spanish, and shows where you are in relation to the MPA. A lot of people don’t know that taking any living or non-living marine resource out of La Jolla Cove is illegal, so these signs show the rules.”

La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets 4:30 p.m. Monday, July 25 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollaparksandbeaches.org