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Beach access stairway to be replaced

SOLANA BEACH — Surfers, swimmers and sun worshippers will soon be able to coexist when going to and from the beach via the access stairs on Del Mar Shores Terrace. At the Nov. 18 meeting, City Council unanimously approved preliminary designs to replace the aging stairway.
Project plans include widening the stairs and eliminating some 90-degree bends so a person carrying a 6-foot board can more easily pass a fellow surfer with a 10-foot board.
The aging structure, which was built in the mid-1970s, is in an “advanced stage of deterioration,” Mo Sammak, the city engineer, said. The stairs are cracking and spalling in numerous locations. The rebar, handrails and guardrails are exposed, rusted and badly damaged. In some places, the corroded reinforced steel is completely exposed.
“Some areas of the damage are almost beyond repair,” Sammak said, adding that his staff has spent a lot of time on patchwork fixes. “We basically react to emergencies,” he said. “When pieces of concrete fall we just jump in there and clean it.”
Sammak described the city’s efforts as Band-Aids. “They are not what we consider a state-of-the art repair project, but we do as best as we can to make the stairs safe for the public to use.” The structure does not comply with current building codes.
City Council began discussing the replacement in November 2007. At that time, council members directed staff to research some questions they had about stair width, concrete color and the types of materials that would be used. Earlier this year, council asked staff to meet with the adjacent Del Mar Shores Terrace homeowners so they could review the plans and provide input.
The new stairs will be slightly more than 11 inches wide, similar to those at Seascape Sur and Tide Beach Park. “They seem to be working fine,” Sammak said. Preservatives that will be used to treat the wood are water-based and do not contain arsenic or chromium so they will not be harmful.
A main concern of the homeowners was potential view blockage from a lifeguard observation station that was included in the project at the request of the Marine Safety Department. The facility, which will be similar to the one at Tide Beach Park, will be 8 feet by 8 feet, the minimum dimensions needed to perform lifeguard duties. It will also be constructed as parallel to the shoreline as possible.
Homeowners also asked if the city could restack the riprap at the bottom of the stairway. Sammak said that was outside the scope of the project. Since it was constructed by the developer to protect private property, maintenance is the responsibility of the homeowners association.
Before construction can begin, the $1.2 million project must be approved by the California Coastal Commission. The city plans to submit the application in January, with approval expected in about one year.
The project should take about six months to complete, but work likely will begin in fall 2011 to avoid construction during the summer.
Sammak said the city has been “unsuccessful so far” in obtaining grant money, but he is still applying. About $300,000 may be available from the San Diego Association of Governments.