After 4 Months of Study, City Bypasses Citizens’ Advisory Group in Emergency Ladera Street “Bluff Stabilization” at Sunset Cliffs

by on August 21, 2018 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

The Ladera Street stairs have been officially closed since February when portions of the bluff collapsed onto the stairs. From our report of Feb. 14:

At first a major crack appeared along side of the bluff – and then a portion of the cliff gave way by Tuesday, Feb. 13th. Lifeguards closed the stairs off – and city staff met to discuss and study the situation and figure out what to do.

And this was the pat response from the City for months. Every time a city rep was asked at a public meeting about the stairs and erosion problems, that was the answer: “city staff is studying the situation.”

City staff has been studying it and studying it – until just recently.

On August 6, the City Council decided to spend emergency funds for its repair, and allocated $1.8 million in Regional Park Improvement Funds for what’s called the Ladera Street Beach Access Stairway Emergency Project. The repairs call for “bluff stabilization”.

And because the project repair was deemed an “emergency,” it was placed on a fast-track – and apparently totally went around the citizens’ group that advises the city on the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, where the stairs are located.

Ann Swanson, a long-time member and past-president of that advisory group, the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council, was quoted by David Schwab at  sdnews.comthe Beacon as saying she believes the city tried to bypass them. She said:

“They were calling it an emergency. But it happened in February. They were trying to bypass us.”

City spokesperson Alec Phillip was quoted:

“Since this is a declared emergency, there is no time to solicit and implement public comments into design. Our goal is to rectify the emergency situation as quickly as possible.”

Now, anyone who has ever visited the stairs of late knows quite well that people are bypassing the gate and signs and are using the stairs to get to the beaches and surf below. And then, of course, using the stairs upon their return to the top of the bluffs.

Last month, we reported that the construction company contracted with the City to make the repairs has been given a waiver for the summer moratorium – which exists on all public construction projects at the beach.

The company, Orion Construction Corporation, was sent a letter on July 23 from the deputy director of the Public Works Department informing them they have a waiver from the normal moratorium “due to the emergency nature” of the project. Orion was granted a “Construction Beach Moratorium Waiver” until August 31, 2018.

The waiver lasts from July 23 to August 31.

Other locals are concerned about just exactly what the “repairs” will consist of – how much of the bluff will be removed in the stabilization process. Schwab quoted City spokesperson Alec Phillip as saying “only loose material and apparent hazards that appear likely to fall” will be removed. He reported:

The scope of work, said Phillip, will remove any potential loose material from the vertical cliff face, and grade back only the portions of the bluff that overhang the vertical face. “A consultant is on board to evaluate the drainage in the area to determine if the drainage is affecting the bluff stability,” he said.

“Should drainage issues be identified, they will be addressed as part of the emergency stabilization of the bluff,” Phillip said. “We are not proposing a reconstruction of the cliff. The project is intended to stabilize what exists currently. Only loose material and apparent hazards that appear likely to fall will be scaled from the cliff face.”

Another member of the advisory group, Dedi Ridenour, was also quoted by Schwab, as being concerned the repairs will have a negative impact on the cliffs. She stated:

“Younger-generation park users tell me they don’t want to see the cliffs torn down, seawalls, rip-rap or other damage done under an emergency permit anywhere along the cliff. They fear this emergency permit is setting a dangerous precedent. They wonder why we have environmental laws if we don’t enforce them.”

Reportedly, on the very same day the City Council voted the emergency monies for the repairs, the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council voted to advise the city prepare a full environmental impact report of the emergency project before any repairs. They also asked the city to move the stairs south to enable Garbage Beach access, instead of the so-called emergency bluff stabilization at Ladera Street.

The same day, the Council voted for emergency Ladera repairs, SCNPC voted unanimously to recommend that the City do a full environmental impact review of the emergency Ladera Street stabilization proposal before moving forward.

Swanson told Schwab everyone on the advisory group was surprised by the Council action to do emergency repairs.

“I knew they had closed the stairs and were trying to figure out what should be done. But we did not know until Aug. 3 that emergency repairs were a docketed item for Aug. 6.”

Swanson said they were also upset upon learning the project had already received all the necessary permitting and could proceed soon. All because it was declared “an emergency”.

Four months of study – then there’s an emergency? And since it’s an emergency, there’s no need to contact the locals.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sealintheSelkirks August 23, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Question: Just how does one ‘stabilize’ cliffs that have been crumbling into the sea for the last 10,000 years at least since the last Ice Age? And will continue to do so…forever until there is just a wider entrance to San Diego Bay!

Another question: If you ‘cut away’ parts of the Cliffs that are not stabile, don’t you open up the new face to the elements so it can continue the process?

The Cliffs are not solid granite, they are an unconsolidated mass and particularly susceptible to erosion. Whatever is about to be done will only be a temporary fix. Any repairs will always be just that, temporary. Wind and rain and heat and cold and salt spray and earthquakes will continue this crumbling process until all the cliffs are worn away and there is a new wider mouth to San Diego Bay.

Somehow it feels likely to expect stupid behavior on this one. Especially since now there is no need for an EIS! How…convenient that is. As a species we seem to be really good at layering concrete all over everything so, yep, expect a lot of that to appear in the near future.



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