Ocean Beach Planning Board Opposes City’s Plan to Spend $1.1 Million on Dog Beach Sidewalk

by on August 12, 2019 · 22 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

One point one million dollars to rebuild the sidewalk at Dog Beach that allows the disabled to access the sand.  Because of a lawsuit.  That was the agenda item that got the most attention from everyone at the Ocean Beach Community Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, August 7.  The topic was, to put it mildly, controversial.

Representatives from the city gave a brief presentation of the project and explained why it was happening.  Apparently, the city lost an Americans with Disability Act, or ADA, lawsuit about the existing ADA-compliant sidewalk at Dog Beach.  The result of the lawsuit was that the current facility has to be redone at a total cost of $1.1 million.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the city explained that the construction costs would be about $400k, the remaining amount was for “soft” costs.  Soft costs are for consultants to design the facility and the city to manage the project.  To build a sidewalk.  It was like attending the theater of the absurd.

The presenters had no information about the lawsuit except that they thought it was settled.  When asked by board member Craig Klein if the project was the result of a settlement stipulation, they had no idea. When asked what was wrong with the current sidewalk facility, all they had to say was it was cracked and it was covered with sand.  But, they did not know if either of those conditions were factors in the lawsuit.

The existing sidewalk was designed by the city and built by a San Diego contractor, Koch-Armstrong General Engineering.  This reporter called the contractor who built it, as one of the owners is a friend, and they said they believe they built it in 2005 or 2006.  Since it was ADA compliant at that time, this reporter asked the city’s representatives if there was some radical change in the ADA requirements from the time it was constructed.  They did not know.  All they seemed to know was it had to be redone because of a lawsuit.

Boardmember Bo Willsey said he has lived near the facility for about five years and had only once seen anyone try to use it, giving up finally because there was so much sand on the concrete.

The design looked more or less exactly the same as what is there now, with a minor variation.  In defense of the project, the city said the existing sidewalk had cracks and was often inundated by sand.  It was pointed out by this reporter that cracks can be repaired, and sand can be removed, for a whole lot less than $1.1 million.  The new design calls for higher side curbs of about 24” to help keep the sand out and stronger footings to prevent shifting and cracking.

There are things called sand fences that are cheap and are designed to keep sand off roadways and sidewalks.  There are also cheaper ways to stabilize the concrete instead of replacing the whole thing.  The only issue that could require replacement is the sidewalk slope but when asked if the ADA slope requirements had changed since it was originally built, they did not know. So, the only information was that it had to be replaced because of a lawsuit but no one knew why.

Some of the board members spoke about the poor location of the existing sidewalk with board member Virginia Wilson characterizing it as ending in a desert.  The sidewalk now goes up over the slope from the parking lot and down the other side where it ends a long way from the ocean.  Some observed that they had seen people in wheelchairs that used the path just to get up on the bike path then wheeled out along the top of the unpaved berm toward the lifeguard tower atop the jetty. This spot allowed a person to see the activity on both sides of the berm, the ocean, and to feel the sea breezes better.

Compounding the cost issue is the city’s decision on how to engage a contractor.  Instead of a competitive bidding process, that results in the lowest cost, the city’s representatives said they were going to use the JOC process, which stands for Job Order Contracting.  The way the JOC process works is contractors bid on a book of unit pricing periodically, such as a cost to replace a 10 x 10 piece of sidewalk.  There can be thousands of unit prices.  The city assesses the work they need done first; an example might be fixing sidewalk, curb, and maybe some street paving that were damaged by a tree.  The project is too small for a competitive bid so the city can go into its JOC book and find a unit cost for sidewalk, one for curb, add one for paving and call in the contractor with those prices to do a small job.

The JOC process is not intended for a project the size of the Dog Beach ADA sidewalk and will not result in the best price for the city.  But, it is probably being used because it is faster than the bidding process.  Contractors are in place and under contract ready to go. There may be some kind of deadline set in the lawsuit that is pushing this contracting mechanism.  If not, the San Diego taxpayers are not being well-served.

The money is coming from the Mission Bay Park fund.  Board member Dan Dennison is the board’s representative at the Mission Bay Park Committee and he had just attended a meeting the day before where the budget was discussed. To the amazement, and probably delight, of many, Dennison said the fund was $100 million and the money for the Dog Beach project was coming from that fund.

The long list of 40 plus projects in the Mission Bay Park fund can be seen here. The Dog Beach project is at the end, most likely added right after the suit meaning another project was tossed or some were reduced.

Board member Kevin Hastings had something to say about the city shifting money around.  He said a large amount of money that was intended for Ocean Beach had been transferred to do the reconstruction of La Jolla Cove’s rest rooms.  Hastings wrote an excellent account of the beach access problems in the OB Rag and obviously feels strongly about the lack of progress fixing the problems.

District 2 representative Seamus Kennedy had been asked at the beginning of the meeting for an update on the various beach access projects, such as at Bermuda Ave.  The news was not good; these were postponed until next year.  So, while these beach access projects and the OB Lifeguard Tower have been waiting a long time to be in the budget, the ADA sidewalk to nowhere was immediately funded, with someone else’s money.

Apparently, the city did not consider any design alternatives either but the OB planning board had one and they are letting the city know. They passed a motion to not approve the city’s project and recommended instead that the city consider building the path atop the berm that leads to the guard tower between Dog Beach and the regular beach.

Clearly the city did not come with enough information on the lawsuit, which might have dulled some of the criticism. But, without any information about the reasons for the lawsuit, it is hard to be in agreement with the current proposal.

Traffic Issues: “Diverters” for downtown OB? Roundabouts or Traffic Circles on West Point Loma

Traffic issues were next up with discussions of traffic calming in two areas of OB.

There is an idea, which is all it seems to be as yet, of setting up “diverters” on in-coming streets to alleviate some of the congestion at Newport Avenue and Bacon Street. Cycling advocate Nicole Burgess stepped up to explain the idea.  But, unfortunately, there was no rendering of the layout. Burgess explained it as she drew pictures in the air.  This reporter could not follow it nor could many others.

The goal of reducing the congestion at that busy intersection is appealing to everyone.  The idea seems to be to divert some traffic at Santa Monica and at Niagara on Bacon coming into Newport.  The plan involved restricting some turns and using the alleys to divert traffic. Burgess passed around a book with some standard graphics that were supposed to help visualize what will happen, but a rendering clearly would have been a good idea.

Denny Knox of the Main Street Merchant’s Association expressed some concerns about how this might affect the businesses in those areas.  Some board members said a change like this needed the input of the merchant’s association and the OB Town Council instead of just being decided by the board.  That desire for a group meeting and the need for more information resulted in no motion – but did get the issue moving. It sounded like a meeting of all three community groups would be set up and open to the public.

The other traffic issue was calming traffic on West Point Loma Blvd. between Sunset Cliffs and Bacon St. As board member Tracy Dezenzo explained, drivers have nothing to slow them down from Sunset Cliffs to Bacon St., which is the first stop.  Apparently, a traffic roundabout was proposed for the intersection of Bacon and WPL but was shot down by the city.  The board discussed roundabouts at Cable and WPL and at Abbot and WPL.  Some feel roundabouts tend to slow traffic down, while others believe they help the traffic flow.

A secondary problem on WPL is pedestrians trying to cross the street with all the traffic.  Roundabouts also provide sidewalks.  The subject of traffic circles came up and was made part of the final motion to approve asking the city to investigate placing either a roundabout or a traffic circle at Abbot and Cable on WPL.

There did not appear to be a clear understanding of the difference between a traffic circle and a roundabout.  Apparently, traffic circles are very large and would probably not be appropriate on WPL but roundabouts should be.  Roundabouts can be seen on La Jolla Blvd. through the commercial district of Bird Rock that have been there for years and do make speeding impossible.

Safety on the OB Pier

Safety was again the focus of the next issue for the board, safety on the OB Pier.  Because of the recent incident when a man drove onto the pier and injured several people, the board discussed ideas for permanent barriers.  The best suggestion of a removable bollard at the entrance was immediately nixed by Kennedy.  He said that idea was already proposed but the first responders said no.  That didn’t leave much.

Board member Dezenzo had pictures of various barriers, one of which involved steel posts that could be lowered completely into the street.  She also had pictures of posts that looked like carved statues as particularly appropriate for OB.  One idea that did not come up would be to put the same kind of tire shredders in the road that are found in driveways to prevent cars going in a certain direction.  Those can also be lowered remotely. The board passed a motion to have the city investigate some kind of removable barriers the first responders might accept.

Extending Area for Banners on Poles Supported

The subject of banners hanging on poles was presented by Denny Knox.  The proposal was fairly simple. The Main Street Association wants to extend the area where banners can be displayed all along Sunset Cliffs Blvd. to Point Loma Ave. and all along Voltaire’s commercial district.  The banners would be 18 inches by 30 inches, attached to poles, and would announce community events.  Knox assured everyone these would not be used for advertising. Once the advertising question was addressed, the board voted unanimously to support the proposal.

“Smart” Street Lights in OB

A report on the Community Planners Committee meeting contained some information about the “Smart” street lights.  There are 25 in OB and 40 total in Point Loma.  Apparently, the police, particularly the parking division, really like the lights.  The vast majority are downtown and the city uses the cameras to direct meter maids to scofflaws.  And, the PD uses the cameras for evidence purposes.  They are watching OB folks, from above. [Editordude: see this on smart streetlamps and SDPD]

In other news:

  • On September 18, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Mission Bay High School there will be a mayoral candidate forum hosted by the Pacific Beach Town Council and a number of other organizations.
  • The Mission Bay Park committee fund will be used to pave some parking lots at Robb Field and Dusty Rhodes Park.  Also, 40 acres will be “rewilded” at the behest of the Audubon Society, among others.  They had wanted 80 acres.  And 60 acres will go to developers.
  • Colleen Dietzel announced a community Symposium will be held at the Point Loma Library on Tuesday, August 13 at 11:45 a.m. Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on Adequate Housing, is the guest.  The discussion is sponsored by the San Diego Housing Emergency Alliance, www.facebook.com/SDHEMA2017.  The flyer Dietzel passed out included a “Vehicle Habitation Hotline Number: 619-814-8528.
  • Kennedy said that Bacon St. will be paved but not until the end of this fiscal year, which ends in July 2020.



{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

ObKid August 12, 2019 at 1:00 pm

spend that 1.1 million extending the boardwalk so it can connect the pier with dogbeach…clean and replace current dog beach entrance with somethingg more accessible/flatter/ada style entrance…while you are at it – fix the southside of the pier/boardwalk so that it connects with the lower cliffs.

Boom! I should be on the OB planning board – we need solutions not complaints!!


ZZ August 12, 2019 at 1:43 pm

I agree 100%.

Fix existing OB sidewalks in poor condition first too. A repave of the dog beach parking lot which is in poor condition would also help disabled people far more than fixing the nearly-perfect new sidewalk area.

I don’t even understand the ADA issue. Part of the sidewalk will be to access the sand and inevitably a bit sandy, and wheelchairs and rascals can’t run on sand.


Paul Webb August 12, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Some number of years ago, many of us who are active in the community participated in a design process called a charette to examine ways to improve access to and along the beach from the pier to Dog Beach. There was a great deal of support for having a boardwalk extending from the end of the existing boardwalk at least to the parking lot at Dog Beach.
There were legitimate concerns about the loss of sandy beach area, having more seawall area for smokers/drinkers/loiterers, etc., but the idea was ultimately nixed by community referendum (if I recall correctly, which I’m not entirely sure I do). The vote went against the idea of the boardwalk, but not because of legitimate concerns, but because of a concerted campaign by a few beachfront property owners. I recall that there was a lot of misinformation given out prior to the vote. Given sea level rise, it may or may not be a good idea now, but it has been looked at in the past.


OBkid August 12, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Roundabouts/Traffic Circles will increase traffic…tourists and Zonies will be unfamiliar and it will back everything up.

Also, from the article “The other traffic issue was calming traffic on West Point Loma Blvd. between Sunset Cliffs and Bacon St. As board member Tracy Dezenzo explained, drivers have nothing to slow them down from Sunset Cliffs to Bacon St., which is the first stop” – This is Incorrect – there is a stop sign at West Point Loma and Cable. West Point Loma and Nimitz – lights; West Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs – lights; West Point Loma and Cable – stop sign; West Point Loma and Bacon – stop sign….what else could we possibly need to put in there??


Geoff Page August 12, 2019 at 2:28 pm

OBkid, are you sure about a stop sign at WPL and Cable that stops traffic on WPL?


kh August 12, 2019 at 2:35 pm

There is no 4-way stop at WPL/Cable.


Geoff Page August 12, 2019 at 3:14 pm

There is a stop sign on Lotus and on Cable leading onto WPL, but there isn’t one on WPL itself, I’m sure.


obkid August 19, 2019 at 6:23 pm

1 way stop at cable – i should specify…so thats one block without a stop or light –


Frank J August 12, 2019 at 5:22 pm

Can I bid for, say… $80,00 of those soft costs? I’ll get a nice broom ($5000), some cement bags for cracks ($20,000), draw up a schedule ($10,000) and sweep as often as the bayside walk is swept (once a year?) labor costs ($45,000) = $80,000 total.


Tyler August 13, 2019 at 10:44 am

As someone who grew up in DC, I’m all for traffic circles. However, trying to effectively incorporate one just a block away (even two is a stretch) from a major intersection in WPL/SSC is a disaster waiting to happen, particularly on weekends. You need the ability to have near continuous flow.


Geoff Page August 13, 2019 at 11:05 am

Tyler, isn’t continuous flow one of the benefits of roundabouts? I watched a video of a test comparing a four-way stop to a roundabout and traffic moved more quickly with a roundabout as traffic kept moving. People have told me, especially in the summer, that WPL backs up from Bacon almost to Sunset Cliffs now. The other advantage of using one would be crosswalks for pedestrians.


ZZ August 13, 2019 at 11:59 am

I do not think the roundabouts in Bird Rock work well at all. And they make me slightly dizzy, even though I am not prone to dizzyness.

I think this is another example of a solution a vocal minority of people want to impose in search of a problem.


OBKID August 19, 2019 at 6:19 pm

roundabouts will make traffic 10x as bad…least the lights and stop signs keep people moving


Doug Blackwood August 19, 2019 at 5:23 pm

OB Kid; how long you been in OB? Years ago the “Ocean Beach Preservation League (OBPL)” stopped the boardwalk because of all the negative issues associated with concrete at the beach!
North OB has an abundance of sand: that’s why we call it: THE BEACH!
We also stopped: sewage outfall off dog beach! I do not own beachfront property.


obkid August 19, 2019 at 6:15 pm

bad decision – its called a boardwalk to connect main beach with dog beach – seems sensible to me.


obkid August 19, 2019 at 6:21 pm

love how these responses are always – how long you love here? 15+ years and still ant believe the non-actions by planning boards, preservation society when the city was offering money to improve OB…you know instead of festering like a pit of trash.

now we wonder why they give Ob earmarked money to other areas – we said no too often!


Doug Blackwood August 22, 2019 at 1:18 pm

As was illustrated when we (OBPL), stopped the Boardwalk: the majority of negative behaviour happens on paved surfaces!
North OB has the sand; most other beaches wish they had!
+ walking in the sand is good for you: while paving increases erosion!
$ come with conditions.


Vern August 22, 2019 at 2:15 pm


There are 9 known health benefits of walking on the beach:

1. Walking in sand requires a greater effort than walking on a hard surface. Your muscles and tendons will work harder as your foot moves around.

2. Walking at a slower pace while your feet sink in sand requires more effort than walking fast or even jogging.

3. Walking in sand requires 2.1 to 2.7 times more energy than walking on hard surfaces.

4. Jogging in sand uses 1.6 times more energy than jogging on hard surfaces.

5. Walking on a beach in the sand is so relaxing that most people walk further distances than they normally would on treadmills, tracks or city streets. Pedometer steps increase without effort.

6. Instead of pounding your joints and feet on hard pavement, sand acts as a natural cushion.

7. Studies say that most of us our Vitamin D deficient. You will soak up natural Vitamin D from the sun as you stroll.

8. Health advocates say that walking barefoot grounds us. At the very least, it reconnects us to nature’s beauty which helps reduce stress as life finds perspective.

9. For most of us burning calories is one of the benefits of any exercise. One the primary benefits of walking on a beach is that you will use 20 to 50 percent more calories than you would walking at the same pace on a hard surface.


OBkid August 22, 2019 at 2:30 pm

and if you are physically handicapped? …. just can’t enjoy the beach huh?

You guys and your NIMBY attitudes…worst part of OB


Vern August 22, 2019 at 4:21 pm

But on the bright side:
“… While there are over a dozen wheelchair accessible beaches in San Diego, you’ll probably want to visit Coronado City Beach, Mission Beach, or Imperial Beach. The sand at Coronado City Beach literally sparkles due to the mica, a gold-like mineral, that is found here. Mission Beach features the classic, bustling boardwalk and is perfect for grabbing a bite to eat. Imperial Beach is the city’s southernmost beach, just four miles from Mexico, and is a wonderful setting to take in a stunning seaside sunset.
Not only are these some of the most beautiful beaches around, they offer motorized and manual beach wheelchairs free of charge to visitors. The beaches also offer handicapped parking and wheelchair accessible restrooms, so you’ll enjoy the ocean breeze and eternal views while lounging in the moderate temperatures that make this city famous…”
There’s something for everyone in SD. Enjoy!


nostalgic August 24, 2019 at 7:39 am

I am not clear about the Dog Beach ADA access. It was in response to a lawsuit, but the conditions described in the lawsuit were for a different sidewalk. Did anybody ever figure out just what the city agreed to in a court settlement that they need to spend $1.1 Million for? Or did they lose track of why they were doing it?


kh August 24, 2019 at 9:48 am

The lawsuit covered every aspect of the ada ramp, but not the end of the bike path where he actually fell. The more repair costs you can pile on, the more settlement money you can get.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: