Merchants brace for streetlight project


Aging circuitry will be replaced over 90 days

With work to upgrade La Jolla’s aging streetlight system set to begin as early as October, merchants are beginning to think about the disruption that will come with the 90-day project.

At last week’s Promote La Jolla meeting, Patti Boekamp, deputy director of the city’s transportation department, and Ahmed Aburahmah, senior traffic engineer, presented an update on the project along Prospect Street from Genter Street to Torrey Pines Road.

Because the project involves digging 2-foot-wide trenches on both sides of the street to entirely retrofit the circuitry, it will be “fairly disruptive,” Boekamp said.

Although work will be done in phases to minimize the impact, she said, “There will be plenty of unhappiness to go around.”

Promote La Jolla President Deborah Marengo has compared the existing system to Christmas tree lights which all go out if one bulb on a string dies.

With the new technology, wiring for the 81 streetlights - which includes three new ones - will be connected in a series of circuits to prohibit the entire system from shutting down if one circuit goes out.

Terry Underwood, general manager of the Grande Colonial Hotel, asked how visitors would get into the hotel if all parking is blocked at the same time.

Boekamp said she would keep Promote La Jolla executives involved in the weekly progress meetings so they can work with merchants before the contractor lands in front of their businesses.

Even so, she said, parking will be a “huge issue” as spots are blocked for the work.

Aburahmah said workers will be required to cover the trenches with steel plates and reopen the parking each night. Work is scheduled to finish each day by 3 p.m.

While some Promote La Jolla members had complained that the project was behind schedule, Boekamp said it is moving along as well as could be expected considering a three-month delay because of October’s wildfires.

When they hit, SD&E, which has to review the project, focused its attention on repairing damage in fire-affected areas, she said.

Bids for the $1.1 million project, which also includes installing plugs for Christmas lights, were to be opened Wednesday. Assuming that the bids come in within budget, the work will likely start in October or perhaps a bit earlier, Boekamp said.

In other business, board members talked about plans for the La Jolla Motor Car Classic and their continuing dispute with the La Jolla Town Council over charging admission.

Faced with a 5-2 vote against approving the event at Ellen Brown Scripps Park, Marengo, the group’s president, said Promote La Jolla faces a potential deficit of about $15,000.

The town council will take the matter up again on Sept.11, so Promote La Jolla’s board will hold a special meeting Sept. 12 to decide what to do.

“It comes down to whether a nice event goes on,” Marengo said.