La Jolla Shores merchants want city to work on utility construction at night; daytime street closures would harm business

■ Residents must first sign petition for approval

By Ashley Mackin

Some business owners along Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores are saying a potential night-work permit for city utility crews might mean the difference between staying open or shutting their doors for good.

Construction for the Avenida de la Playa Infrastructure Replacement Project and Group Job 809 — which began Dec. 9 and paused for the summer construction moratorium in May — was scheduled to resume Sept. 2. However, work was pushed back to Sept. 8 so a subcommittee of business owners could meet with the construction team and the city.

Plans call for replacing sewer mains that run down the middle of the street, so portions of Avenida de la Playa must be closed. Business and restaurant owners are hoping the work can be done at night to minimize the impacts from dust, noise and lack of parking.

“We are scared to death,” said Barbarella restaurant owner Barbara Beltaire. “This project was just thrown at us, and they did not tell us the street would be closed.” Business owners received notice Aug. 21 that the work was scheduled to start Sept. 2, and would involve the daytime closure of segments of the thoroughfare.

Both Beltaire and Surf Diva co-owner Izzy Tihanyi expressed concern over whether businesses would survive the construction. “The impact is not only because the street will be closed, but because people don’t want to eat, drink and shop in a construction zone,” Beltaire said. “Our customers are going to go elsewhere. They are going to find other places.”

Construction manager Yoftahe Ghilia-Michael explained at a standing-room-only meeting Aug. 29 that the Avenida de la Playa Infrastructure Replacement Project work that resumes Sept. 8 involves closing off Avenida de la Playa at Camino Del Sol up to Calle de la Plata for the completion of the storm drain, and installation of box culverts along with sewer and water mains. The fenced off area would be closed 24 hours a day until around Thanksgiving. The sidewalks would remain open and vehicles will have access to Calle de la Plata.

For Group Job 809, the sewer lines along Avenida de la Playa will be replaced in two scheduled phases. The first of which would close the street from Sewer Pump Station 27 at Laureate Park (mid-block between El Paseo Grande and Paseo Del Ocaso) to just west of La Jolla Shores Drive, and is scheduled to begin in November. The second phase covers the portion of the street where businesses would be most impacted — restaurants, retail shops and cafes — between Sewer Pump Station 27 and Calle de la Plata, and is scheduled to begin in January, when business is generally slower. During the latter phase, the sidewalks will remain open.

Streets that feed into Avenida de la Playa will also have sewer and water lines replaced.

Attorney and art gallery owner Shirley Church said, “What we need is a coordinated effort to minimize the harm. If you can do some of the work at night, that kind of assistance to the merchants on the street would help us make it through this. We can work with the city, if the city will work with us.”

Recognizing the “problem with communicating” thus far, Transportation & Stormwater department spokesperson Bill Harris said, “The extent and the timing was news to everyone, and I apologize for that . but we are going to try to minimize impacts to every extent that we can and work with you to do so.”

Originally squashing the idea of night-work due to its potential burden on residents and additional costs, Harris committed to seeking a night-work permit for the Avenida de la Playa project, for which a petition will soon circulate to get the required signatures. Any business or resident within 500 feet of Avenida de la Playa must be considered.

Harris also said the city would work to better communicate with merchants regarding the construction schedule and work planned.

— An update will be provided at the next La Jolla Shores Association meeting, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10 at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Building T-29, 8840 Biological Grade. E-mail: