Barrier going up to protect pedestrian safety near Hillel

A K-rail barrier is to be installed to help improve pedestrian safety near the construction site of the Beverly and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center after weeks of requests by La Jolla residents and San Diego city officials, though no date had been announced as of Aug. 1.

The barrier is intended to address residents’ safety concerns during construction of the Hillel Center, which has blocked pedestrian access to the intersection of Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Village Drive from the northwest (cul-de-sac) end of La Jolla Scenic Drive North, the most expedient way for people in that area to get to the UC San Diego campus on foot.

This area is where construction of the Hillel Center closed a walkway from the northwest end of La Jolla Scenic Drive North.

This area is where construction of the Beverly and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center caused the closure of a walkway to the intersection of Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Village Drive from the northwest end of La Jolla Scenic Drive North.

(Bing Maps and La Jolla Light)

“The contractor closed the previously available access route through the Hillel construction site to UCSD for public safety and to facilitate construction,” city of San Diego senior public information officer Scott Robinson told the La Jolla Light. “Once construction is complete, this access route will be restored.

“The contractor is installing K-rail barriers along the street to create a temporary safe path for pedestrians until the permanent access route can be restored.”

The barrier will be along the east side of the construction site between La Jolla Scenic Drive North and La Jolla Village Drive.

David Michan, a Hillel board member, also told the Light that Hillel is “working with the city to provide a temporary K-rail protected pathway.”

Robinson said it will be installed “as soon as possible.”

The closure of the narrow sidewalk raised concerns among several residents who expressed their worries to the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

Their emails, obtained by the Light, began in mid-June, just after the sidewalk was closed (construction began in September but contractors waited until UCSD’s spring session was finished in June to close the sidewalk). A sign indicates the sidewalk will be closed through Oct. 21.

Some residents also wrote to the Light. “This walkway is essential to the La Jolla Shores Heights neighborhood for easy and safe access to the southwest entrance to the UCSD campus by foot or bike. … [The closure] is very inconvenient and dangerous,” Kris Colvin wrote.

Rob Bookstein, who lives near the construction site, said he doesn’t oppose the Hillel project but expressed alarm to LaCava’s office and the Light about pedestrian safety.

A pedestrian detour around the construction — south on Cliffridge Avenue to Glenbrook Way and then north on Torrey Pines Road — adds significant length to one’s route, Bookstein said.

“No pedestrian … would actually do that to get to UCSD,” he said.

A sign at the end of La Jolla Scenic Drive North at Cliffridge Avenue indicates the sidewalk to Torrey Pines Road is closed.

A sign at the end of La Jolla Scenic Drive North at Cliffridge Avenue indicates the sidewalk to Torrey Pines Road is closed.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

Another detour east on La Jolla Scenic Drive and north along the east side of the construction site to La Jolla Village Drive means pedestrians must walk without a barrier, sidewalk or other protection from vehicles that are “turning pretty fast and … not expecting to see pedestrians there at all,” Bookstein said.

“There’s no other safe pedestrian path,” he said.

He said a K-rail barrier along the east side of the construction site makes sense.

LaCava’s office requested the K-rail in June, according to the email exchanges.

On July 12, Keith Moss, superintendent for contractor Pacific Building Group, said “the city has all pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk on the east side of La Jolla Scenic Drive North going to La Jolla Village Drive. People walking in the street do so at their own risk. Walking through a work zone is not [allowed].”

Mike Inerowicz, a city associate traffic engineer, wrote July 13 that the contractor is “required to maintain a pedestrian path on La Jolla Scenic Drive to Torrey Pines Road.”

Later that day, LaCava’s field representative Steve Hadley told the La Jolla Shores Association that a K-rail would be installed.

An email from Pacific Building Group project director Russ Engel on July 21 stated that “due to the nature of the construction, there was never an agreement made to allow traffic through the area in question once construction started. In fact, allowing pedestrian traffic through the area would pose a danger to both the construction workers and the public.”

On July 27, city senior traffic engineer Tanner French repeated the request to install a K-rail, and Robinson said Aug. 1 that the contractor is working on it.

Engel did not respond to the Light’s request for comment.

Michan said the temporary closure was necessary and unavoidable but that “planned site improvements will include an improved access path for both pedestrians and cyclists [and] a sitting area within a shaded grove of Torrey pines. There will also be sidewalk improvements along La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla Scenic Drive and La Jolla Scenic Way. It is expected to take about 60 to 90 days to complete these improvements.”

LaCava said in a statement to the Light that “it is a continual challenge to ensure and preserve safe pedestrian access [citywide], with or without an existing sidewalk. … Pedestrian safety is a priority in every neighborhood.”

“With the temporary closure of pedestrian access formerly gained via the La Jolla Scenic North cul-de-sac, pedestrians must have a safe route around the Hillel construction site,” he added.

LaCava said this is one of several projects he has advocated to promote pedestrian safety in La Jolla. ◆