Bluff stabilization work in Del Mar to begin in September

A Surfliner train by Amtrak travels along the collapsing bluffs in Del Mar.
(John Gibbins / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Del Mar City Council unanimously voted on Aug. 5 to allow bluff stabilization improvements that will take place from September to May, including repairs to retaining walls, storm drains, flow channels and access pathways to support the rail that transports passengers along the Los Angeles-San Diego corridor.

“It’s absolutely essential to do this work so the trains don’t fall in the ocean,” Councilman Dwight Worden said.

The work will be completed by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) with funding from the Federal Transit Administration, State Transportation Improvement Program and Transportation Development Act.

Kaily Wakefield, policy coordinator for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, said the portion of the bluff that collapsed in Encinitas last week, killing three woman, underscore the long-term issues that still need to be addressed.

“It’s clear that we have a bluff stability problem, evidenced by why this wall is being built in the first place,” she said. “We feel that for the safety of the beach-going public, as well as for the train riders, it’s imperative that the tracks be moved sooner than 2050.”

SANDAG continues to spend money on construction designed to stabilize the bluffs through 2050, but many residents want the tracks moved sooner. Trains have been stopped for safety inspections following multiple landslides on the bluff over the past year, stoking fear of a major collapse.

“Simply imagine the horror of a train full of people tumbling off the bluff, and the loss of so many lives,” said Udo Wahn, an executive committee member of Surfrider’s San Diego chapter and 36-year Del Mar resident. “Let’s get the trains off the bluff as soon as possible and maintain access to our beaches. Let’s figure out which of the proposed off-the-bluff options work the best for a permanent solution.”

The work, taking place along a 1.6-mile stretch between Seagrove Park and Torrey Pines will also include the removal of concrete debris from the collapse of a storm drain headwall built in 1910.

“Part of what’s going on with this work is going to help with our storm drainage, it’s going to help with our beautification,” Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland said. “We have in front of us this picture of this ugly thing that’s been on the beach getting worse and worse for several years now. It will finally be gone. I’m in strong support of this encroachment permit in addition to being in support of getting the tracks off the bluff.”