Stonesteps Beach access reopens in Encinitas

The Stonesteps in Encinitas.
(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Closure began six months ago after stormy winter weather damaged staircase structure


Encinitas beachgoers had a reason to celebrate at noon Wednesday, June 21, when the city reopened a beach access staircase that’s been closed since mid-January.

Located at the western end of South El Portal Street, the popular Stonesteps Beach staircase was structurally damaged during stormy winter weather in early January, and it has been closed to the public ever since. Engineers “red-tagged” it after an inspection found the main support beam for the upper deck and lower stairs was structurally unsafe.

City officials had hoped to reopen the staircase long before the summer beach season began, but fixing the structural problems didn’t turn out to be an easy, or fast, project. Among other issues, the contractors had to special order some custom-made beams from a Northern California supplier and have them shipped to Encinitas.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Tony Kranz wrote in a text message to a reporter that the repair work had been a “challenging and unfortunate” project and said he was pleased that people could now use the staircase.

“I’m glad we were able to get access open again, so residents and visitors alike have another way to get to the seashore,” he wrote.

Travis Karlen, the city’s director of parks, recreation and cultural arts, said the beach access staircase is used by an estimated 200,000 people a year.

The staircase, which connects the upper cliff bluff top with the beach some 70 feet below, is a two-part structure. The upper section has concrete steps, while the lower portion consists of a wooden staircase. A structural engineer determined that the necessary repairs needed to include replacing the staircase’s upper timber platform, using the original design with “updated technical specifications,” a new city press release states.

Encinitas booked the JC Baldwin company for the construction project in mid-March and then the procurement of construction supplies began, the press release continues.

“Emergency repair materials, including brackets and beams, required custom manufacturing and treatment to meet the technical specifications and to hold up in the coastal conditions,” it states.

The final supplies arrived during the week of June 5, and the construction activity needed to get the staircase reopened concluded Wednesday morning.

However, the city press release continues, the project is not completely done.

“Additional work is required at the beach access and will be scheduled at a future date,” it states.

This work will require some permitting and supply orders, and will occur “outside of the busy summer season,” it concludes.