Torrey Hills planning board may stop enhancement project, says cost too high
By Karen Billing
The Torrey Hills Community Planning Board continues to resist the idea of having the city spend hundreds of thousands of community money on a simple enhancement project.
“It started out as a wonderful idea to make an area that was a little bit of a blight look nice,” said board chair Kathryn Burton. “But the costs are just out of line…Any homeowner in Torrey Hills would be appalled at spending this kind of money for what’s essentially a boulder, gravel and a bench.”
Due to the costs of the proposed enhancement of 1.5 acres under the power lines on East Ocean Air Drive, the board may consider just stopping the project altogether.
City staff and consultants presented plans for the enhancement in January and reported that they could start construction in March 2015. The estimated construction cost would be $231,000, plus soft costs for the environmental process and a site development permit which can be as much as $100,000. Potentially, the enhancement could end up costing the entire amount in the Torrey Hills maintenance assessment district (MAD) budget: $441,000.
At its Feb. 18 board meeting, the board voted to send a letter to the city to request a stop in spending on the project, as already $75,000 has already been spent, including $20,000 for Estrada Land Planning for what the board said was just “two pages” of planning and design work. Burton said the city projects another $75,000 for future consultant work.
The board asked Ali Darvishi, the supervising project manager and deputy city engineer, to provide a list of costs on the project as well as potential cost savings. They asked whether the site would really require temporary irrigation and if their MAD (Maintenance Assessment District) would be allowed to maintain the site in lieu of the proposed 25-month maintenance and monitoring program.
In a letter to the board, Darvishi said it is possible that hand-watering could replace the irrigation system but the method has not been effective in the past with the kind of hydroseed mix planned for the site. He said they could save $76,500 by eliminating the temporary irrigation system and the base under the decomposed granite trail, bringing the new construction cost to $153,000, with total project costs of $332,000.
Darvishi’s letter said that $53,000 of additional savings could be realized with the elimination of DG paving, boulders, bench, shade structure, dry creek and the five-gallon trees. The new construction total would be reduced to $100,000, with total project costs of $279,000.
Last year the board approved spending $290,000 on a project that included things such as the paving, boulders and benches. Without even those, not much is left of the original intent of the project, Burton said.