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Del Mar train tracks
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Community Commentary Opinion

Commentary: Hold firm on bluff talks

By Karen Lare

Honorable Mayor and City Council Members:

Del Mar Woods is a community of 126 condominium owners whose units are located at the southwest end of Del Mar. 

The complex is situated on the upper bluff overlooking the ocean and train tracks. The complex has approximately 560 feet of bluff facing-property bordered on the west side by acacia plants, a drainage culvert, installed by NCTD that is approximately 3.5 feet wide and then the open bluff trail area. 

The Del Mar Woods association has an agreement with the railway to maintain the drainage culvert as it serves the HOA and is on property under railroad control.

NCTD’s statements and the press about erecting a fence on the upper bluff have alarmed many of the residents of Del Mar Woods for multiple reasons, but most importantly over the concern of the impact it will have to drill large postholes into a fragile sandstone bluff, then fill them with concrete and then install a 4-foot fence.    

Just the equipment and people needed to do this work alone will negatively impact the bluff edge and surrounding vegetation. 

To our knowledge, a comprehensive geologic study has not been done on the soil of the upper bluff and the consensus of local geologists is that the sandstone bluffs are prone to erosion and collapse as evidenced by the multiple bluff slides on the lower bluffs. 

Thankfully, we have not had a large upper bluff failure in recent memory, but the upper bluffs are prone to natural erosion from rain and wind on an on-going basis.

As you know, there is a narrow walking trail west of the drainage culvert.

The trail is only about 4 feet wide along that portion of the upper bluff and is used by residents and visitors alike to view the ocean vistas and watch the sunset or to walk their dogs.

The bluffs along Del Mar Woods south of 4th Street are approximately 40 feet above the tracks and there is no trail that is used to access the tracks or the beaches below from the bluff in front of Del Mar Woods. 

In addition, no one has fallen from the upper bluff located in front of Del Mar Woods or at all on the upper bluff anywhere to our knowledge. 

Furthermore, we are aware that the city is amenable to accepting the risk of liability for people who are injured while using the upper bluff. 

We do not see how the addition of a fence will enhance NCTD’s train safety record in this area.   

A fence of the type NCTD is describing will only disturb the vegetation and soil, eliminate space for walking and add weight to the edge of the bluff. 

In addition, a fence with a posthole every 6 feet will mean a minimum of at least 93 new openings that will allow additional water intrusion and cause additional erosion of the sandstone on this fragile bluff.

We ask you to hold firm in your negotiations with NCTD and insist that no fence is required on the upper bluff south of 4th street.  It is plain to see that the risks of erecting a fence in this area greatly outweigh any imagined benefit to NCTD, the city, or anyone. 

Damage done to this bluff at this stage of its evolution cannot be reversed, ever.

It is important to note that there are no soldier piles in place to support this section of the bluff and should a bluff failure result from NCTD’s fencing (approved by the Del Mar City Council without a thorough geological study or detailed construction fencing plan), it would mean that both NCTD and the city would be opening themselves up to litigation from the 126 owners at Del Mar Woods.    

Why would the city agree to 4-foot fencing in an area that does not need it?   

Why is NCTD so interested in fencing a part of Del Mar where the trains don’t run?  Why fence an area that has no access to the railroad tracks below? 

The purpose/goal of the fencing according to NCTD is “to stop trespassers [on the tracks] and save lives.” 

Fencing at this location does not further this goal and only serves to add environmental and geological stress and cost taxpayers’ money.

We appreciate the work that you have all done on our behalf in negotiating with NCTD to have the best possible outcome for the residents of Del Mar but we must insist that you remain steadfast and oppose the fence on the upper bluff in front of Del Mar Woods.

Karen Lare is a resident of Del Mar.

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