Undergrounding in the Shores still not completed

A project to underground power lines in La Jolla Shores has faced numerous delays and is still at least months away from completion.

The undergrounding project, called Block 1J Phase 1, has been ongoing since January 2020 and will eventually see all utility poles removed as streets are trenched and lines laid underneath in The Shores west of La Jolla Shores Drive from Avenida de la Playa north to UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

San Diego Gas & Electric is performing the work, taking pauses as required by law for the summer construction moratorium, which prohibits roadwork from Memorial to Labor days to ease traffic congestion in busy coastal areas.

The project was scheduled to be completed in late 2023, a finish date pushed back a few times.

Currently, SDG&E “has had an unusually large number of difficulties with keeping the schedule on track for this project,” said Emily Lynch, field representative for San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

Speaking at the May 8 meeting of the La Jolla Shores Association, Lynch said  the delays have been caused by design modifications required due to a change in engineering standards; supply chain shortages; and job changes that triggered additional financial approvals within SDG&E.

The utility company “is now ready with a contractor that is scoped to do all the remaining electrical work,” Lynch said.

As the work “needs to be executed in a tight sequence and cannot pause once it starts,” she said, SDG&E is seeking a waiver from the city of San Diego to allow them to work through the summer construction moratorium, which begins Monday, May 27 this year.

Once the work starts, “it will be fairly quick,” Lynch said, with completion in a few months.

The update led to a contentious discussion among LJSA board members, some of whom expressed frustration with the length of time the project has taken and others emphasizing a moratorium waiver would lead to untenable traffic situations.

A waiver would give SDG&E “another excuse to delay even further,” said board member Andrew Perry, whose business is on Avenida de la Playa. “They’re already close to four years behind schedule.”

“To give [SDG&E] and the city a pass for a few months seems to me not a wise thing to do,” board member Richard Dahlberg said.

Summer construction, however, “doesn’t work well with traffic flow and pedestrians and people accessing the beach,” board member John Shannon said. “It will just make a headache.”

“You can’t move down here in The Shores in the summertime,” said La Jolla Shores resident and former LJSA President Janie Emerson. “That’s why we have the summer moratorium.”

The board voted 8 to 4 to ask the city to deny the waiver and push back undergrounding work until after summer’s end.

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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