Ocean Beach Planners hear goals for Bermuda stairs, labeled pathways

The beach access stairs at Bermuda Avenue are pictured March 9 as the city of San Diego works on repairs.
(Crystal Hoyt)

Improvements to Ocean Beach coastal access and pedestrian safety topped the OB Planning Board agenda Feb. 5 at the Rec Center.

Representatives from the City of San Diego Public Works made presentations at the meeting, along with with reps and engineers from Moffatt & Nichol global infrastructure advisory firm, seeking board support for moving forward with plans to replace the deteriorated Bermuda Avenue stairs that used to provide public access from the bluff top down to the beach.

One engineer with Moffatt & Nichol showed photos of the current state of the stairs, pointing out the rusted railings, cracked concrete and bottom steps broken-off entirely.

“We know what it looks like,” one community member commented wryly, prompting chuckles from fellow meeting attendees.

The firm’s engineer then projected renderings of what the replacement staircase could look like and its potential features:

• Three flights of stairs — top landing, intermediate landing, with the bottom fives steps designed as a large concrete lot;

• Alignment similar to the existing staircase;

• Code-compliant stairs with concrete steps and a concrete wall to anchor stainless-steel handrails;

• Durable design to be resilient to coastal impacts such as sea level rise, storms and tides;

• A self-supporting structure separate from the seawall;

• Piles at the top and middle landings;

• Spread footing for the bottom flight designed to accommodate varying beach profiles and tides.

The project’s estimated pricetag is $1.5 million, and the six-month construction period would begin in summer 2021. Reps said the target goal for the stairs’ resilience is 50 years.

When chair Andrea Schlageter opened discussion to public comment, one citizen pointed out the similarity in the appearance of the proposed staircase to the stairs at Pescadero Avenue, which — considering their need for repair on several different occasions — wasn’t a selling point for the community.

Another Moffatt & Nichol rep assured that the firm specializes in engineering and designing waterfront structures, so it is aware of the complications of building stairs in a marine environment. The firm is also conducting a sea level rise study.

Additionally, he said, the concrete used for the Pescadero stairs is the same concrete someone would use “in a backyard,” and therefore lacking durability.

“We absolutely understand you guys are frustrated by the failure of the Pescadero stairs, and we’re working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen with the Bermuda stairs,” the rep stated. “We’re quite confident we’re going to give you an excellent project.” He clarified that Moffatt & Nichol did not build the Pescadero stairs.

With the project currently at 60 percent in the design phase, a motion was made to table its consideration until the design phase reached 100 percent. The motion passed unanimously, and chair Schlageter encouraged community and board members to attend the City Council budget meetings in June and July to ensure funding for the Bermuda staircase does not get diverted to other projects or coastal communities.

OB Elementary Safety Improvements

A familiar issue brought in a member of the Ocean Beach Elementary Parent-Teacher Association: traffic safety measures needed at the school. Parent Ashley Lewis, who has two children at OBE, implored the board to support a letter to District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell and the San Diego Unified School District requesting the following safety measures be implemented:

• Re-striping crosswalks and intersections surrounding the school;

• Adding illuminated speed limit indicator signs on both north and southbound lanes of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard;

• Posting signs to indicate right turns on red lights during school hours are illegal at the intersections of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Santa Monica and Newport avenues;

• Leading Pedestrian Interval (typically gives pedestrians a three to seven second head start when entering an intersection with a corresponding green signal in the same direction of travel; intended to give pedestrians a chance at being more visible in the crosswalk) at Santa Monica Avenue and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard;

• Extending the three-minute drop-off zone for a safer area for parents to drop-off their kids without having to stop in middle of street;

• Have the City and school district work together to provide a formal Crossing Guard program.

“Every year we see the same bad behavior from drivers who are kind of blowing through intersections,” Lewis observed. “They’re more distracted than ever, the cars are bigger than ever.”

Schlageter suggested sending the letter to City traffic engineers Duncan Hughes and Gary Pence, in addition to Campbell and SDUSD, so a traffic study could take place. Board member Craig Klein made a motion to support the letter, which passed unanimously.

OB Pathways

The board unanimously passed a motion by secretary Tracy Dezenzo (which was based on recommendations from the Transportation Subcommittee) for wayfinding signs and “sharrow” street paint markings to guide and support cyclists and other micro-mobility devices through OB from Robb Field to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. The street paint would indicate shared lanes between bicycles and vehicles.

Dezenzo explained that in an effort to simplify navigation through OB while walking, cycling, skateboarding, etc., Nicole Burgess from District 5 on the San Diego Mobility Board, tracked the mileage between OB landmarks, coming up with a total of 10 needed signs (five facing north and five facing south) and where they should be strategically placed.

The subcommittee’s recommendation for sharrow street markings would look similar to the PB Pathways in Pacific Beach (which Burgess assisted with), but have a simplified design to encompass all forms of travel alternatives to driving a car.

“I will support this on one contingency,” vice chair Kevin Hastings announced. “You’re missing our greatest landmark: public bathrooms need to be marked!”

Burgess agreed to add public restroom symbols to the signage. She also assured those gathered that the City would double-check the mileage listed on the signs.

River Path Bike Trail

The board reviewed the Transportation Subcommittee’s request to liaise with the Mission Bay Parks Committee (MBPC) to seek improvements and repairs for the River Path Bike Trail, a heavily used trail on the southside of the San Diego River from Sunset Cliffs Boulevard bridge, heading west.

Transportation committee community member Rick Williams said a section of the pathway, 300 yards long, is in the most dire state, with potholes and ragged surfaces posing evident safety concerns for cyclists, walkers, joggers and scooter-riders. Though that section stands out as a hazard, Williams said the entire path from the bridge to the beach also needs to be upgraded.

He further observed that the Hyatt and the Dana hotels offer bikes and scooters for tourists, and the pathway serves as a primary connection through Robb Field onto Bacon Street, the bicycle boulevard.

The transportation committee requested repairs to the pathway be expedited and made a priority.

OBPB member Klein made a motion to approve an official liaison between the transportation committee and the MBPC. The motion passed unanimously.

In other OB Planning news …

• Denied: The board voted 10-3 to deny a project to demolish an existing house at 4640 Orchard Ave. and build two new homes on the property, based on the orientation of the lot split the project would require.

• Approved: A project to construct a two-story Accessory Dwelling Unit, also known as a granny flat, at 2077 Cable St. was approved unanimously.

• Board elections: The board will hold its 2020 General Election 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, March 4 at the OB Rec Center, 4726 Santa Monica Ave. The board will meet that same day at 6 p.m. For more details, visit


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