Delays to Encinitas lifeguard project will impact summer beach season

A 2012 view of the old lifeguard tower at Moonlight Beach. Construction of a $3.7 million new tower, which was initially proposed to conclude before Memorial Day, now looks unlikely to be done until the end of July, city officials say
(Charlie Neuman / UT file photo)

Throughout much of the busy summer season, people will find unexpected construction activity and fewer places to park at Encinitas’ Moonlight Beach.

Construction of a $3.7 million lifeguard tower, which was initially proposed to conclude before Memorial Day, now looks unlikely to be done until the end of July, city associate civil engineer Stephanie Kellar said last week.

Many days of rain between October and March and each “post-rain cleanup” day afterward put the project about a month behind schedule, she said. And, that has only been one of the causes of project delays.

The city also faced unexpected trouble with the demolition of the old lifeguard tower because asbestos and lead were discovered in the building, she said. Then, there was a seawall issue — the city expected to find one hidden underground seawall that needed to be removed and instead found two.

Add to that some redesign work on the electrical system, the windows and the doorways, and the project’s estimated completion date now looks to be late July, Kellar said April 26 during a report to the Encinitas City Council.

The delays will have an impact on the beach, its main parking lot and any special events held in the area this summer, she added.

The city’s already scrambling to deal with one special event issue. A hugely popular summer concert — the Switchfoot BRO-AM benefit event on Saturday, June 24 — is scheduled to occur just two weeks after the windows are set to be delivered for the lifeguard tower project. The annual concert typically attracts upwards of 17,000 people and raises money for nonprofit organizations that help children, particularly homeless and at-risk teens.

Keller said she’s been meeting with the BRO-AM event organizers in recent days and believes the concert can go forward mostly as planned, but there may be some modifications to accommodate the construction activity around the lifeguard site.

A large chunk of the beach is fenced off around the site of the future lifeguard tower and about 15 spots in the beach’s main parking lot have been eliminated to provide space for a construction equipment staging area.

Council members said they would like to recover as many parking spots as possible before the summer beach season begins, and they suggested moving much of the staging area equipment down the hill to the tower construction site or over to the city’s downtown fire station a few blocks away.

“The important thing is that we do everything we can to minimize the impact (to beach visitors),” Councilman Tony Kranz said.

City lifeguard Capt. Larry Giles said he wouldn’t recommend putting any additional equipment or supplies in the beach area, saying the uphill staging area in the parking lot is more secure than the construction site at the beach. People have been breaking into the construction site and stealing wood to use in the beach fire pits, he said.

Kellar told the council that she wasn’t sure whether using the city fire station as a construction staging area was a good idea either, saying regularly transporting the equipment across several city blocks might be “a bit more complicated” than using the parking lot at the beach. However, she said, they will try to rework project fencing to free up more parking spaces in the lot and more space on the beach below.

There is one bright spot related to the project.

“As of now, it does appear that we’re going to be within our project budget,” Kellar told the council, saying that they appear to have enough money in the project’s contingency fund to meet the extra expenses.

--Barbara Henry is a freelance writerfor The San Diego Union-Tribune