La Jolla Shores eagerly waits for long overdue park work to finish

A park renovation that began nearly three years ago in La Jolla Shores is now slated to be completed in December after contractor problems delayed the project.

A.S. Construction, the contractor working on an underground sewer pump and the park above it in the Shores, went bankrupt and walked away from the project in early 2003. The work had been scheduled for completion in February of this year.

It took more than six months to negotiate a deal with a new contractor, said city project manager Clemens Wassenberg.

“It’s just been unbelievably, ridiculously bad luck,” said City Councilmember Scott Peters. “This project is taking too long due to some factors that are out of our control.”

The sewer pump station along Avenida de la Playa was originally built in 1972 and was due for upgrades including new pumps, a new underground storage tank, a new underground generator, electrical and mechanical upgrades and new piping.

Peters called the project “my favorite headache. But, we can see the end now.”

In between now and the end lies work onsite as well as work in the streets that frame the park. The new contractor, Ryan Construction, has already installed the emergency tank room, and since May it has been performing the function that the pump station will perform when completed. The mechanical and electrical upgrades are currently under way and the new pumps will be installed soon, Wassenberg said.

In September, crews will begin the work of reconnecting pipes under the surrounding streets and resurfacing and slurry sealing the streets. Workers have to dig about 20 feet deep to reach the pipes and the work will close Avenida de la Playa for about two weeks, Wassenberg said.

The contractor attempted to complete the street work before summer and found the soil to be much more moist than expected, Wasserman said.

“The soil started caving in, and that meant more work than the contractor expected,” he said. “They had to button it up and wait for the end of the summer moratorium (on street work).”

As a result of the pipe work, the entire block of Avenida de la Playa in front of the park will be redone.

“By the end of September, they will be out of the street for good,” Peters said.

October cannot come soon enough for businesses in the area around the park and pump station, which was formerly known as Mata Park.

“It’s affecting traffic and parking,” said Rob Luscomb of Kayak La Jolla, directly across from the park.

An employee at the International Gallery and Cafe, just across Avenida de la Playa from the park, agreed.

“When they close off the street, there is no parking,” Daydree Featherstone said.

Luscomb said he has seen three traffic accidents in front of Kayak La Jolla, which he attributed to temporary fencing around the project site that has made the street narrower.

Peters said more time has been added to the project by adding an odor control system to the pump station, which is not required by law but Peters felt was necessary. The system consists of carbon canisters that filter the air exhausted from the pump station and added about $140,000 to the cost of the project, Wassenberg said.

“It would be ridiculous not to put it in,” Peters said. “There is no sense putting a sewer pump station in La Jolla Shores without odor control.”

Peters said the project is still on track with its projected price tag of $3.5 million. The new station is designed to accomodate a maximum flow of 2,150 gallons per minute. It sends sewage out of the low point at La Jolla Shores up toward Torrey Pines Road, then relies mainly on gravity to reach the sewage treatment facility in Point Loma.

“This is one of many projects La Jollans have noticed to upgrade sewer and water lines,” Peters said. “It is important for beach quality that the system is running properly.”

The existing station has had power outages and sewer spills in the past, Wassenberg said. The new station’s underground storage tank will collect any future spills and keep them contained.

Once the work on the pump station is complete, crews will turn their attention to the park above it. Reconstruction of the park is scheduled to begin in October and be completed by December.

A group of La Jolla Shores residents who wanted to rename the area Laureate Park and create a tribute to Nobel laureates from nearby UCSD has been given a deadline of September by Peters to determine a cost and raise funds.