Merchants want improvements after La Jolla Shores construction project is completed

When construction is complete on Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores, some business owners are hoping the city will step in and make additional improvements to boost safety and aesthetics in the business district. In the midst of Group Job 809, which began in December 2013 and involves replacing water and sewer lines, the street has been torn up with some business owners calling the area “a war zone.”

Improvements proposed are to make a temporary sidewalk configuration permanent and to make the sidewalks and street more pedestrian friendly.

Representing the La Jolla Shores Business Association, Piatti restaurant manager Tom Spano and Rusty Board House owner Angie Preisendorfer attended the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation (T&T) board meeting March 27 to request approval of their proposed changes.

The board did not vote on the requests, but requested the presenters return to a future meeting with more information.

“Once all the construction is done, it is going to look exactly like it did before, so we were thinking this would be a great opportunity for the city to do something good,” Preisendorfer told La Jolla Light during a walkthrough along Avenida de la Playa.

Spano explained there is a crosswalk configuration that was intended to be temporary and experimental, but it has no timeline as to when its efficacy would be evaluated. A portion of the affected crosswalk, across El Paseo Grande at Avenida de la Playa, is separated from adjacent parking areas by a row of planters and yellow caution tape instead of a curb or tire stops. Cars can park perpendicular to the crosswalk on one side and parallel to the crosswalk on the other side.

“We want to extend the sidewalk (at sidewalk height) all the way to the end of the row of plants, so there is a curb to stop cars and make it safer,” Spano said, adding that previously, drivers would park their cars too close to the crosswalk. Having a curb would make the parking situation clearer.

An option being considered is to have the sidewalk wrap into an L-shape, replacing one parking space and further delineating the section as a parking area.

Additionally, Spano said he would like to have the sidewalk in front of his restaurant widened to standard width by removing some of the greenery there. His restaurant is the only one on Avenida de la Playa with extensive shrubbery that encroaches on walking space. Currently, the sidewalk is wide enough to accommodate pedestrians in single file.

“But think if they had a surfboard, paddle board or beach bag,” Preisendorfer said, noting that 3 million people visit the area over the summer. “It gets crazy here during the weekends and summer.”

To further make the area more pedestrian-friendly, she and Spano said they would like to see a crosswalk striped across Avenida de la Playa. She said they are looking at a “continental crosswalk” of horizontal lines across the street instead of two vertical, parallel lines that people walk between.

La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA), the community advisory group for the area, put infrastructure improvements for Avenida de la Playa and adjoining streets on their list of city-funded capital improvements, but has not seen a specific plan.

LJSA chair Tim Lucas, in attendance at the T&T meeting, said the board approved the concept of “allocation for Avenida de la Playa business district enhancement and sidewalk reconfiguration to improve safety and aesthetic,” including but not limited to increasing visibility of stop signs and crosswalks throughout the district on Avenida de la Playa, and extension and widening of sidewalks.

The work would cost $186,000 if it were to be done on the city’s dime.

At the T&T meeting, chair Todd Lesser said should the group decide to privately fundraise for the project, it would likely cost less and take less time. “If we approve this project, it would go on a list of approved unfunded projects and I can tell you, it could take years,” he said.

Further down the line, the Shores Business Association would like to see stop signs installed along Avenida de la Playa, but acknowledge that would be a different process.

The concern, Spano said, is that there is one stop sign on Avenida de la Playa at Calle de la Plata, closer to the beach. It’s reported that drivers often run through it because it’s not visible from far away and they do not expect a stop. No accidents were ever reported at that intersection.

■ Traffic & Transportation meets 4 p.m. fourth Thursday at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. The next meeting is April 23.