SOLANA BEACH — The City Council unanimously approved an application for urgent maintenance and repairs to 170 feet of seawall and other bluff infrastructure beneath the Del Mar Beach Club condominium complex at its Jan. 10 meeting.
The approved project, which now goes to the California Coastal Commission for final review, will be the first of three stages of repairs to the seawall spanning 540 feet below the condos at 825 S. Sierra Ave.
The Del Mar Beach Club Homeowners Association, the project applicant, told the Solana Beach City Council that the first phase focuses on repairing and maintaining unstable infrastructure that rises to the level of an emergency.
Planned work in this first stage will target three areas: replacing tiebacks and repairing concrete spalling (cracking) and damaged reinforced steel along the lower bluff; repairing parts of the existing staircase leading from the condos to the beach; and reinforcing the upper bluff pier wall.
“Phase one is definitely an emergency. If you’ve gone down and looked at the wall, looked at the spalling, there’s just huge gaps inside the wall,” said geotechnical consultant Bob Trettin of Soil Engineering Construction Inc.
The 15-foot-high seawall along the lower bluff was constructed under the oversight of the Del Mar Beach Club Homeowners Association in 1980, with reinforcement infrastructure added to the middle and top sections of the bluff over the following 20 years.
A geotechnical review completed last spring by Soil Engineering and Construction, Inc. indicated that the tiebacks stabilizing the lower bluff seawall are “severely compromised” and cannot be relied upon to provide support.
“Based on our investigation, the previously-installed protective devices have been adversely impacted by ongoing erosion and bluff failures,” the geotechnical study said. “The present condition of the bluff profile constitutes an active hazard to properties and persons living and/or working above the bluff profile. The present condition also constitutes a hazard to persons along the base of the bluff profile.”
Del Mar Beach Club HOA President Terry Himes said completing repairs to the seawall has been one of his goals for many years. Many condo units sit directly in stacked towers on the edge of the bluff.
“There are 63 units in those stacked units, and they’re all on the bluff so that bluff is critically important to us to keep it maintained as much as possible,” Himes said.
The council members also noted the urgency of the situation.
“It’s the kind of thing where these condos would fall into the ocean if we don’t do this type of repair,” said Councilmember Kristi Becker.
Work on the staircase will involve repairing the concrete landing at the bottom of the bluff and replacing two support columns. On the upper and lower bluffs, new shotcrete will be applied to secure the bluff face and will be applied and colored to match the texture of the actual bluff.
Trettin said the HOA will be back before the City Council in the next year or so with applications for the next two phases, which will include similar repairs to the remaining 370 feet of seawall beneath the condos.
The council also discussed the topic of fees associated with the project. Because the condos and lower seawall were constructed before the enactment of the Coastal Act, the HOA was not required to pay the mitigation fees now required for such projects.
According to the city, the scale of the project will require a sand mitigation impact fee of around $47,000 and a public recreation impact fee of just over $200,000. The council did, however, agree to accept the California Coastal Commission’s set fees at the request of the HOA.
John Steel, HOA president for the Surfsong condominiums north of Del Mar Beach Club, noted that all nine of the condominium HOAs along South Sierra Avenue maintain seawalls and other infrastructure and, in turn, pay millions to the city in associated fees.
“All of us have seawalls, notch infills, or some combination of them, and they’re not insignificant,” Steel said. “The city is benefiting from our care and our interest.”
The sand fee is applied to projects with potential displacements of sand and is used to help the city pay for sand replenishment and retention. One such effort will begin later this month when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers kicks off a massive sand dredging project that will add around 700,000 cubic yards of sediment to the city’s beaches.