Solana Beach to update Seascape Sur stairway

In an effort to prevent an emergency closure of the Seascape Sur public access stairway, the Solana Beach City Council on April 13 approved a professional services agreement with Noble Consultants to design repairs for the more than two decade old structure.

“We concluded the stairs are safe and that’s why they’re still open,” said City Engineer Mo Sammak. “They have plenty of life left in them. However, they do require a major maintenance program.”

Built in 1995, the stairway was constructed with a concrete pier supported structure and several flights of stairs at the south end of the city. The piers and the landings over the piers were constructed out of concrete, while the stair flights were made out of treated lumber. Five of the piers are on the bluff and three are on the beach.

The city has performed regular inspections and routine maintenance of the structure. In 2008, the beach piers were encased with an interlocking jacket system to strengthen them against surface wear from the impacts of sand and cobble, especially during winter months and high tides conditions.

The harsh marine environment, however, has rusted the metal hangers and fasteners that support the treated lumber steps.

“They are in very good structurally sound condition but they are rusting at a relatively rapid rate,” Sammak said. “We probably should replace them. … But with time, those will deteriorate even worse.”

Additionally, the handrail at the bottom of the staircase has rusted, Sammak said, and the treated wooden stair treads need to be replaced due to normal wear and tear that has occurred over the 20 years that the stairway has been in service.

According to the staff report, if this maintenance work is not completed, “the deterioration would eventually reach a point where the stairs would have to be closed so that emergency maintenance work could be performed.”

Noble Consultants originally designed the Seascape Stairway. Noble also was design consultant and prepared the plans for the 2008 maintenance project. Additionally, the company designed the Del Mar Shores stairway reconstruction project and the lower wood-tread portion of the stairs at Tide Park Beach.

“They have extensive experience in designing this type of marine structure. They’re very familiar with our city as well,” Sammak said. “So we felt that they are the appropriate people to help us in designing the maintenance program.”

The city budgeted $50,000 for the project for the current fiscal year. The project is estimated to cost $34,510, but staff requested $40,000 in case the California Coastal Commission has requirements that lead to additional design work.

“We believe that hiring Noble is in the best interest of the city, not only in saving staff’s time for soliciting proposals, but also the fact that they are the most efficient and expert in this field,” Sammak said.

In a 4-0 vote with Deputy Mayor Peter Zahn absent, the council approved the agreement.

Councilman Mike Nichols suggested replacing the stairway with concrete rather than wood because he said pressure-treated lumber is “not really good” for bare feet and that concrete would last longer than wood. Because the structure was originally designed and constructed with wood stairs, however, Sammak said he was not sure if concrete would be an option for the project. He plans to return to council with alternatives when the work is ready for approval.

The structure will have to be closed, so construction will start at the end of summer. Work is expected to be completed in about two to three months.

“We have to close it; it’s the right thing to do,” Sammak said. “It’ll be pretty quick.”

“I wanted this to be available for the public to hear,” said Councilwoman Lesa Heebner. The issue was pulled from the consent calendar, a list of items approved with a single vote and no discussion. “It’s important that they know that we’re maintaining our infrastructure.”

“I really appreciate that we’re being proactive about our infrastructure,” added Mayor David Zito.