‘What’s Natural About Sunset Cliffs Natural Park?’

by on October 28, 2020 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach

Originally posted Nov. 19, 2019

By Geoff Page

In October of last year [2018], I did some checking on why the Sunset Cliffs Park project was not yet finished. I contacted the city and the emails that follow tell the story. I’m not using the person’s name because there is no reason to cause him any difficulty as some of his responses might. This is a really sorry tale.

Oct. 16, 2018 – the response I got to my initial inquiry:

The contractor has been waiting for some materials that required a long lead time to obtain. These materials are scheduled to be delivered on site next week. The contractor intends to resume working full time on site starting this Friday or at the latest on Monday October 22nd.

Planting will begin the first week in November and will be done in two phases. Planting will likely continue through January, weather permitting.

There have been some design changes on this contract that have required significant changes to the project schedule. I believe that now we should be able to proceed and complete this project.

All photos by Geoff Page.

Oct. 17, 2018 – Response to my additional questions after his email:

The City’s design team gave the contractor a few surprises at the pre-construction meeting when the City requested that the contractor spend $800K of available grant money in the first 60 days of the contract. This completely changed the contractor’s schedule.

I believe that this contract was originally planned to start work in June 2017 but was delayed for some reason. If the project had started then, there would have been no need for the scramble to spend the funds.

The project would have been completed by this summer. Logistically, June would have been a much better time to start. It would have automatically had the planting scheduled at the right time of the year although last winter would have been tough on the plants and the contractor because it was so dry.

There is a pedestrian bridge and two timber crib walls that are to be installed on site. These are the items that require the lead time.

The contractor had to verify the length of the bridge and the location had to be adjusted. The foundations for the bridge and the crib walls had to be redesigned as the proposed foundations were inadequate.

There is also a separate permit that is required for the bridge which involved coordination with Development Services Department.

There were problems with grading some of the trails because the designs were based on an inaccurate topographical map.

The contractor has had to wait for cooler weather to begin planting. Native plants can be tricky.

We, in the construction management team were handed a project that had flaws that we and the contractor are correcting. We want this project to be done right.

Sept. 24, 2019 – After seeing what this bridge consists of, a structure about 35 feet long, I went back to the city with this:

We exchanged emails about the park a year ago. You mentioned long lead times for the bridge materials. I’ve seen the staking for the bridge and it looks like it is only about 35 feet from footing to footing. There is no way a bridge this small should have held this project up for a full year. Why has there been no visible progress?

Oct. 9, 2019 – Response after a second prompting:

The bridge and the two crib walls were associated with the deferred permit which was required. There were drainage issues with the crib walls that would have required that a storm drain of some sort be installed. The project designer did not want to go that route and ultimately removed the crib walls from the scope of the project. Once the crib walls were removed, the contractor was able to get the permit. This was the primary cause of the delays in the construction of this bridge. There were other design issues that had to be dealt with as well.

The foundation has been excavated. The sub that is doing the concrete neglected to tell the sub that built the steel rebar cages that the steel needed to be epoxy coated. This caused the current delay.

The new cages are scheduled to be delivered this Friday. Work will resume on the foundation next week.

Once the foundation is completed, the work on the rest of the bridge should be completed comparatively quickly.

Recent observations:

A week ago -, last weekend – I saw that the bridge area was being worked on. Because of how the contractor went about this, it made passing over the old drainage ditch impossible, cutting off access to the back half of the park to everyone. No accommodation was made for the public to pass through.

This weekend, the “progress” was two large gluelam girders spanning the ditch from one concrete abutment footing to the other that could not have taken two hours to place and a pile of materials untouched in one week. For those not familiar with the term, “gluelam” is short for glue laminated. This is a beam consisting of layers of wood bonded together to make a big beam.

One of the gluelam girders is clearly cracked in several places on the sides and the top and should be rejected by the city. The materials for this tiny bridge are not “long lead” items, it’s all wood. When I first received that response, I was expecting a pre-fabricated steel bridge of some kind that might take time to fabricate. Why this has taken a full year can only be attributed to gross incompetence.

This project has been a complete mess from a construction standpoint. We are into the third year on this. I’ve seen work taking place recently that could have been done long ago. The silt fences are a mess. The contractor killed plant life and crushed the top part of the new stairs by the Navy fence by running a too-large machine to the far end of the park to set two benches. The machine ran over a number of the new plants placed in the area. They spilled dry concrete on the ground and made no effort to clean it up.

And, beyond that, the creation of a roadway from one end of the park to the other has created a freeway of bicycles, scooters, joggers, baby carriages, and on and on. There are trash cans now along the way that will require a city worker to drive at truck through the park to empty those new cans. Some will say this is wonderful because it makes the park more accessible to everyone. Others, like me, will say the name Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is now a joke. The word natural has been obliterated. Even the ridiculous faux stone sign they set is so far from natural it actually now fits in.

This used to be a place where people could enjoy a bit of wild land more or less untouched by humans. Sure, there was trash to deal with, and the old ballfield, but it felt wild. Now, it is a flat, expressionless piece of land that suffers all the ills of the streets leading up to it. It even bores my dogs now.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Clifton "Cliff" Rodgers III October 28, 2020 at 1:32 pm

Geoff Page,
Is this really the worst of Ocean Beach problems? Please address the issues that need addressing, stop sweeping them under the rug! What comes to my mind is just how rundown and dirty Ocean Beach has become, yes, I can send plenty of pictures, too. I am a long time member of the beach community currently residing in La Jolla Shores, and quite frankly there is just no reason for anyone to go out their way to visit Ocean Beach, we loved that long time mexican restaurant in Ocean Beach, but apparently they came to their senses and shutdown, I have no reason to visit just too dirty for me, I know it has a reputation for drugs, maybe that’s way people live there, they are too stoned or out of their minds to leave.


Frank Gormlie October 28, 2020 at 2:28 pm

Cliff – your angst is misdirected. Geoff’s post was written nearly a year ago(he may not even know I reposted it) and addressed a particular issue – the state of Sunset Cliffs “Natural” Park. You’re opening a whole host of other problems and issues. If OB is just too dirty for you, fine. There’s plenty of tourists and short term vacation rental visitors to take your place. Oh, on Nati’s – their old school Mexican dishes were simply outclassed by new eateries. Although, there’s a new Mexican cuisine opening in their place.


Geoff Page October 28, 2020 at 3:03 pm

Although the post appears to be done with a real person’s name, it does not appear that Mr. Rodgers is a real person. The tone of the comment was so weird, my gut told me it was a fake, just someone trying to stir up trouble for no reason. Anyone who couldn’t remember Nati’s name can’t claim to know OB. Just a troll.


Greg October 28, 2020 at 7:59 pm

anyone who pines for Nati’s probably isn’t a real person.


Geoff Page October 29, 2020 at 9:51 am

My name is on my comment and I pine for Nati’s, as do many others. They were in business for 63 years so they must have been doing something right. It was a friendly, comfortable little restaurant with OK Mexican food. It wasn’t five star of course. But, I really get tired of people who have to say something when they don’t have anything good to say.


Chris October 29, 2020 at 4:44 am

The other thing is, anyone who is that uninformed probably does not hold down job that would afford him the ability to live in LJ Shores.


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