SOLANA BEACH — Council members took steps to avoid an emergency closure of the Seascape Sur public access stairway, approving at the April 13 meeting a professional services agreement with Noble Construction to design repairs for the structure at the south end of the city.
“We concluded the stairs are safe and that’s why they’re still open,” City Engineer Mo Sammak said. “They have plenty of life left in them. However, they do require a major maintenance program.”
The structure, built in 1995, includes five piers on the bluff, three in the sand below and several flights of stairs leading to the beach.
The city has performed routine maintenance on the stairway. In 2008 the beach piers were encased with an interlocking system to strengthen them against surface wear from the impacts of sand and cobble, especially during winter storms and high tides.
But the harsh marine environment has rusted the metal hangers and fasteners that support the treated lumber steps.
“They are in very good structurally sound condition but they are rusting at a relatively rapid rate,” Sammak said. “We probably should replace them. With time those will deteriorate.”
The handrail at the bottom of the staircase is also rusting and the stair treads are worn so everything should be replaced, Sammak said.
If this maintenance work is not performed, the deterioration would eventually reach a point where the stairs would have to be closed so emergency work can be performed, the staff report states.
Noble was the original design consultant and prepared the plans detailing how the stairway was to be built or repaired. The company also was responsible for the Del Mar Shores stairway reconstruction project that was completed in 2014.
Since both structures are similar the lessons learned during that project can be applied to Seascape Sur, Sammak said.
Noble also designed the lower wood-tread portion of the stairs at Tide Park Beach.
The Solana Beach code states that competitive bidding is not required if doing so is not in the best interest of the city.
“We believe that hiring Noble is in the best interest of the city, not only in saving staff’s time for soliciting proposals but also the fact that they are the most efficient and expert in this field,” Sammak said.
“They’re very familiar with our city as well so we felt that they are the appropriate people to actually help us in designing the maintenance program,” he added.
The project must be approved by the California Coastal Commission. The estimated cost is $34,510 but staff requested $40,000 in case that agency has requirements that translate into additional design work.
The city budgeted $50,000 for the project for the current fiscal year.
Councilman Mike Nichols suggested replacing the stairs with concrete rather than wood because he said pressure-treated lumber is not really good for bare feet.
There are a lot of toxics in there, he said, adding that concrete would also decrease the risk of splinters and last longer.
“Less wear. Less tear,” he said. “It’s just something you might want to look at.”
Sammak said the stairway was designed and built for wood stairs so he wasn’t sure if concrete would be an option but he will return to council with alternatives when the work is ready for approval.
Since the structure will have to be closed, construction will start after summer and probably take about 60 to 90 days to complete.
“It’ll be pretty quick” Sammak said.
“It’s important that (residents) know that we’re maintaining our infrastructure,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said.
“I really appreciate that we’re being proactive about our infrastructure,” Mayor Dave Zito added.