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City to borrow $3 million for sidewalk improvements

DEL MAR — Council members opted at the Jan. 21 meeting to take a walk on the wild side and borrow 100 percent of the $3 million needed to complete the first three segments of a sidewalk improvement project.

Historically, city leaders have shied away from taking on debt, opting instead to use pay-as-you-go financing even if it meant projects took a little longer to complete.

The city currently has an estimated $4.2 million in sidewalk, street and drainage projects that were initially slated to be funded by allocating about $300,000 annually.

But city officials decided to use a financing plan offered by the San Diego Association of Governments that issues bonds to advance construction projects.

The city would use the money it receives annually in TransNet funds — about $200,000 — to pay the debt.

TransNet is a voter-approved half-cent sales tax given to cities for use on transportation projects. It is the same financing mechanism Solana Beach used to fund its recently completed improvement project along Coast Highway 101.

Staff originally recommended borrowing $2 million and using cash to pay the balance. But as the city considers other capital improvement projects, such as a new City Hall and development of the Shores property, staff recommended keeping the cash on hand and borrowing the entire $3 million.

If all goes as planned, work will begin in March in the Beach Colony along Camino del Mar from 22nd Street to 29th Street, with completion scheduled by Memorial Day.

“The Camino del Mar/Beach Colony portion of the project has been fast-tracked,” Public Works Director Eric Minicilli said.

The work will include approximately 2,800 feet of new curbs and gutters, 12,000 square feet of sidewalks, 20 pedestrian ramps, pavement rehabilitation and irrigated planting areas.

The project also includes much-needed underground storm drain infrastructure on the east side of Camino del Mar at 27th Street, where flooding is common. The design is in the final stages of review and a public outreach program is under way.

Staff members are directly contacting about a dozen property owners who have made private improvements in the public right of way and will be impacted by the project.

Anyone else concerned about how the project will affect their property should contact the city.

City Manager Scott Huth said he or a staff member will meet owners and point out improvements that have been made on city property.

“I don’t have any problem with our staff going out and meeting with any resident specifically right in front of their house and we can walk through the project,” Huth said. “And frankly I think that’s a better interaction.

“When we get out there we can show them the alignments in front of their house,” he added. “That’s the care and feeding that we’re willing to do with each resident.

“There’s really no effort I can see that we’re not willing to do in terms of educating people on what we’re going to do and how we can help them and make it work because the timeframe is short,” Huth said.

The Beach Colony improvements are one of three segments that will be funded with SANDAG bonds. The other two are Camino del Mar in the downtown area and the southbound side of Jimmy Durante Boulevard.

“We could potentially start construction on these projects any time after the racing season closes in November,” he said, noting that design will be complete this summer.

Design for the remainder of the citywide sidewalk project — Camino del Mar from Ninth Street to Carmel Valley, Via de la Valle and the northbound side of Jimmy Durante Boulevard — is funded, but construction will be deferred until money is available.