City declares local emergency following bluff collapse

DEL MAR — Shortly after crews started tearing back a section of Camino del Mar, which has been shut down since a Jan. 7 bluff failure, council members at the Jan. 19 meeting declared a local emergency.

Doing so allows the city to hired contractors without going through the standard bid process, which City Manager Scott Huth said could delay repairs and extend the road closure for several months.

Heavy rains caused a section of Anderson Canyon to slough off, initially prompting the city to shut down both lanes of Camino del Mar between Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley roads, but one northbound lane was opened within hours.

All southbound travel on the roadway was prohibited for about a week until crews eventually converted the two northbound lanes into one lane going in each direction.

Although Camino del Mar remained intact the impacted area is adjacent to the western edge of the pavement.

Much of the fill under the street slid down the canyon, undercutting the road and exposing a communication conduit with fiber-optic cables, two gravity main sewer lines that serve Del Mar and the city of San Diego and a storm drain line and inlet.

Additionally, a high-pressure gas distribution main ran under the roadway.

Once all the utilities were relocated crews on Jan. 19 started peeling back the road to uncover the extent of the damage.

The cost to repair the damage won’t be known until that work is complete but Public Works Director Eric Minicilli said $1 million is a conservative estimate.

Del Mar will be responsible for at least a $500,000 deductible. Minicilli said the city will seek emergency reimbursement funds, including those available as a result of Gov. Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency following this year’s predicted El Niño storm conditions.

According to the staff report, extensive geotechnical work, potentially including the drilling of caissons deep into the bedrock to prevent further slides, will be required.

The engineering analysis may also dictate that building a bridge over the affected area may be the least expensive and disruptive course of action.

Because Anderson Canyon is a protected coastal wildlife and lowland area, construction will need to be carefully implemented to minimize disruption to the protected area, the staff report states.

The stretch of Camino del Mar on the south end of the city was built more than100 years ago. Consistent with construction at the time, the canyon-side road was cut through the sandstone, with the low area composing the drainage way for Anderson Canyon filled with earth to create a level service on which to build the road.

Minicilli said he expects the southbound lanes to remain shut down for at least a month. New information is posted regularly on the city website. Another update is expected at the Feb. 1 council meeting.

Council members praised the Public Works Department for its rapid response.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Minicilli said.

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