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Contract awarded to replace closed beach-access stairs

SOLANA BEACH — If all goes as planned, beachgoers will have access to the sea, surf and sand via Del Mar Shores in August. 

At the Nov. 20 meeting, council members unanimously awarded a $936,780 contract to Blue Pacific Engineering, which came in with the lowest of eight bids received to replace the stairway at the south end of the city.

City officials began working to replace the structure, built in the 1970s, more than five years ago because the marine environment caused the stairs, handrails and safety fencing to deteriorate.

The concrete was also cracked and rebar was exposed and rusted.

The Public Works Department spent significant time and money to keep up with basic cosmetic and safety repairs, but despite the efforts, the stairway was closed to public access last November after a structural engineer concluded there was “a high probability that the staircase can collapse at any time.”

A preliminary design was approved in 2009 but no funding was available. City officials applied for and received a permit from the California Coastal Commission that would have expired earlier this year.

A one-year extension was granted but if work doesn’t at least begin by February the city will have to reapply.

The current design is almost identical to the one approved four years ago except for a slight change to the look of the lifeguard observation station.

Original estimates to replace the stairway were between $1.5 million and $1.7 million.

“We anticipated it to be much higher than it actually is so this is really great news that it came in at the price that it did,” Mayor Mike Nichols said.

Council authorized $1,173,737 for the project, which includes the Blue Pacific contract, a 15 percent contingency and a not-to-exceed $93,373 for consulting and architectural services for the stairs and lifeguard observation station.

Blue Pacific’s bid includes $54,780 to repair the handrail, concrete stairs, metal picket fencing and drainage swale at Tide Beach Park.

To fund the project there is $275,000 from a beach recreation fee that is being held by the San Diego Association of Governments. The city has $200,000 from a public recreation fee charged to homeowners who build sea walls.

The city applied for and was denied a $200,000 grant from the Coastal Conservancy, but it has reapplied and expects a decision by early next year.

The shortfall — either $698,373 or $498,373 — can come from general fund undesignated reserves, which currently has a $1.1 million surplus.

Rather than just take the money, staff proposed borrowing it and using transient occupancy tax money to pay it back.

Repayment at 2.71 percent interest would result in annual payments of $57,751 over 10 years or $32,713 for 20 years. Interest paid would be $77,511 or $154,265, respectively.

“I think it’s a good idea to consider something like this,” Councilman Tom Campbell, an accountant, said.

Council members discuss the option during an upcoming budget meeting.

Construction is expected to start in January and take seven and a half months to complete.

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