Del Mar reconstructs slope, replaces utilities

Months after El Niño rains drenched the region and damaged a bluff in Del Mar, the city has completely reconstructed the slope, which supports a busy roadway.

“This has been an incredible project — one of the most difficult projects I’ve ever been a part of because there’s no easy way to get to the bottom of the canyon,” said the city’s Public Works Director Eric Minicilli. “You can’t just drive a truck down there. You have to literally go down this huge slope at a very sharp angle.”

Heavy rains on Jan. 7 caused a section of Anderson Canyon to slough off, creating a landslide and damaging a portion of Camino del Mar, which runs north and south along the coast.

While the roadway remained intact, the impacted area was immediately adjacent to the western edge of the pavement. A storm drain and utility lines that run under the roadway were damaged during the storms.

The City Council on Jan. 19 declared a local emergency, allowing the city to hire contractors without having to go through the standard bid process, which City Manager Scott Huth explained at the time could delay repairs and extend the road closure.

There are two northbound lanes and one southbound lane in the area. Due to safety concerns, the city immediately closed the southbound lane on Camino del Mar, between Carmel Valley Road and Del Mar Heights Road, following the incident. Crews eventually converted the two northbound lanes into one lane going in each direction.

“We’ve had the same traffic control since about a week after the incident,” Minicilli said. “We haven’t noticed very much obstruction at all to the traffic circulation there. We’re not seeing big delays due to the work.”

Del Mar hired Southland Paving, an Escondido-based contractor that Minicilli said the city has worked with in the past.

Last week, the contractor completed the reconstruction of the slope, which supports Camino del Mar. The city plans to add seeds and plants to the slope so it looks more natural, Minicilli noted. This week, Southland Paving is expected to complete the replacement of the Del Mar sewer and storm drain lines beneath the roadway that were impacted by the landslide.

“Work has been ongoing since basically a week after the event,” Minicilli said about the project, which totals about $1.1 million for the city of Del Mar.

“The storm drain line was certainly damaged during the landslide. All the other utilities were all exposed. They were basically left hanging in the air when the landslide occurred, so we had to disconnect them, reroute them and now we’re in the process of putting them back,” he explained. “So there are several utilities that didn’t break, but they were wide open and unsupported. You could see them hanging under the roadway.”

When that part of the project is completed, other impacted agencies, including the city of San Diego, Southern California Edison and AT&T, will return to the site to replace their damaged utilities.

“They deal with very sensitive materials,” Minicilli said. “It could be several weeks.”

City staff expects the third-party utility work to be completed in early June. Once the work is completed, the city’s contractor will return to the site to resurface the roadway and remove the existing traffic detour.

“It’s been a very big project in a very short amount of time,” Minicilli said.