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La Jolla’s dark streets frustrating merchants

Until Monday night, it was lights out in La Jolla with a power disruption along Prospect Street that began the day before Thanksgiving.

While officials with Promote La Jolla, the city and SDG&E were working to repair the problems, merchants said they’ve heard that before - too often.

“The streetlights have been a recurring problem for the five years I’ve been here,” said Tiffany Sherer, the executive director of Promote La Jolla, Inc, the community’s member dues-supported Business Improvement District. “There are bare wires in the ground that are shorting out. They’re 82 years old and literally falling apart.”

On Sunday, she had written in an e-mail that something called a regulating output transformer was to blame for the darkness. It was not related to the updating project.

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But late Monday, she wrote that “SDG&E has fixed the problem that they were given on Friday, so while it took us some time, the city has been actively working on it.”

Village landlord Lincoln Foster has been creating an e-mail buzz of late pointing out merchants’ patience is running short with the all-too-familiar refrain that the lighting is broke, and the city is fixing it.

Same old story

“These problems have been ongoing going back more than 15 years, a repeat story over and over,” said Foster, who’s witnessed the scenario off and on since 1975 from his office window on Prospect Street. “It’s old wiring and an outdated electrical system, and repairs are going to be done quickly -- and it takes two weeks.”

Foster said having the lights out is becoming not only a safety concern, but in these trying recessionary times, a question of survival for some struggling community businesses.

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“The city needs to take this seriously,” he said. “We’ve got dark streets here. It’s a public safety issue, a quality of life issue and a commerce issue. Isn’t it time we really raise hell?”

Outcry increases

Other Village merchants are beginning to join in the chorus of complaints about poor lighting.

“There is no doubt the infrastructure is old and it is really bad,” said Deborah Williams of Encore of La Jolla at 7655 Girard Ave. in an e-mail “However, given the amount of taxes the businesses and residents of La Jolla pay, there is still no excuse. I’ve not been in any neighborhood that has the lighting and shopping problem that La Jolla has.”

Work on long-term repairs to La Jolla’s aging streetlight system began at the end of October. Crews from HMS Construction Inc. of Vista, the low bidders on the project at about $675,000, have been installing new circuitry for 81 lights in the gutters along with three new streetlights, connecting lights in a series of circuits instead of a single one so they don’t out like a string of Christmas lights when one light bulb goes out.

On schedule

Construction crews started at Torrey Pines Road and Prospect Place, working to Cave Street then on to La Jolla Boulevard and the alleys south of Sea Lane. After the holidays, they’ll start working their way north into the business district.