SOLANA BEACH — With 70 percent of the project design complete, council members authorized staff at the June 12 meeting to seek construction bids to replace the beach access stairway at Del Mar Shores Terrace.
The structure, a gateway to the city’s southern beaches, was shut down in November after an engineer concluded there was a high probability it could collapse at any time.
Built in the 1970s, the staircase “has lasted well beyond its service life,” the staff report states.
City officials have been working to replace the stairway since 2008. They say the marine environment caused the stairs, handrails and safety fencing to deteriorate, although some residents blame the city for lack of maintenance.
A preliminary design was approved in 2009 but funding was not available. City officials applied for and received a permit from the California Coastal Commission that expired in January. A one-year extension was granted, but that is only valid for another seven months unless construction starts before then.
If not, the city must reapply.
Although the access stairs at Tide Beach are in “relatively good condition,” according to the staff report, repairs will be made there at the same time to save money.
The metal hand railings are rusting, fencing is damaged and the concrete stairs and swale are cracking.
The cost estimates are $1.3 million for Del Mar Shores and $200,000 for Tide Beach, including contingencies of $200,000 and $50,000, respectively, for a total of $1.5 million. About half is funded.
The city appropriated $100,000 for the project in the current fiscal year budget. Another $275,000 is available for use from the beach recreation fee held by the San Diego Association of Governments.
The city has collected $235,000 in recreation fee deposits from bluff-top property owners for sea wall projects. Eighty percent of that, or $188,000, is being proposed for the stairway replacement.
The city applied for but was denied a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy in 2009, but staff is currently reapplying since the condition of the stairway has deteriorated since then.
Conservancy staff members indicated the city could be eligible for a $200,000 grant but did not offer any assurances it would be awarded this time around.
Private donations and fundraising are other possible income sources not included as potential revenue.
If the grant is received there would still be a $737,000 funding shortfall. The Finance Department recommends borrowing internally.
Money would come from the general fund reserves and be paid back from the sand replenishment/retention and coastal access capital project fund, which receives 2 percent of the city’s 13 percent transient occupancy tax revenue paid by hotel guests.
“We have a dedicated source of funding in the TOT CIP fund and that fund is available (to use) on this kind of project,” Finance Director Marie Berkuti said.
“I can live with that,” Councilman Tom Campbell, a certified public accountant, said, adding the amortization period should be as short as possible.
City Manager David Ott said construction will likely take at least a year since work on the fragile bluffs would have to be done without large machinery, a requirement that also accounts for the high price tag.
Mo Sammak, the city engineer, said the the new Del Mar Shores stairway will look very similar to the one at Seascape Sur.