Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, May 1 @ 4:36 p.m. / Infrastructure, Ocean

Though Emergency Dollars Appear Less Likely For Pebble Beach Drive, State May Still Offer a Solution

Crescent City continues to search for solutions to Pebble Beach Drive more than three months after a storm-driven landslide forced the city to close the road to vehicles and pedestrians. | File photo: Jessica C. Andrews

More than three months after a storm ate into the bluff alongside Pebble Beach Drive, it’s looking less likely that Crescent City will get state emergency dollars it needs to stabilize the area.

But California may still offer a solution to the cash flow dilemma that’s keeping the city from moving forward on a project to shore up about 1500 feet of precarious coastline from 6th Street to Preston Island, City Manager Eric Wier said.

“We submitted a request for about $7 million just for the slide area,” Wier told the Wild Rivers Outpost, referring to the city’s request for emergency opening dollars from Caltrans and CalOES. “As we’re working with the state, if there are cash flow funding options for us, we could work toward a permanent solution that would the city in a better long-term solution than just this one little section of Pebble Beach.”

The scenic drive between 7th and 8th streets has been closed to vehicles and pedestrians since Jan. 14. The slide itself has slowed as winter weather has abated, but there are still unsupported pieces of asphalt and Wier said he expects more of the bank to give way due to the pounding surf.

The Crescent City Council has declared a local emergency at every meeting since Feb. 5, allowing the city to bypass the normal competitive bid process to reopen the road. Members of the California Coastal Commission are also expected to view the slide area during their meeting in Crescent City from May 8 through May 9, Wier said.

Despite the consistent local emergency declarations, CalOES hasn't asked California Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state emergency, Wier said.

"As more time passes by, my level concern about getting it passed and emergency opening funds made available to us — that certainly is a concern," he told the Outpost.

With emergency dollars for the project likely not coming to Crescent City, staff are trying to get the state to help with “some sort of up front financing” to move forward on the larger Pebble Beach Drive Bank Stabilization Project, Wier told members of the Measure S Oversight Committee on Tuesday.

This $32 million project would address storm damage from December 2016 and would stretch from 6th Street to north to about Preston Island. The Federal Highways Administration already authorized funding for the project through its Advanced Construction program. But Crescent City would have to pay for the project up front and then seek reimbursement through Congress.
That could take several years, Wier said.

“How does the city, with a total of $11 million in its general fund budget, put up $32 million and be OK with it for several years before getting reimbursed? It doesn’t work,” he said. “There’s not going to be a bank that loans that kind of money on the promise that, yes, at some point in time we think Congress is going to allocate the money and you’ll get paid back then.”

The FHA has approved funding for about 88.5 percent of the project, Wier told the Outpost. About 9 percent of the cost of the project would be reimbursed through Caltrans and CalOES.

Crescent City would have to contribute 3 percent toward the project cost, about $1 million.

Tasked with helping the City Council set priorities for spending Measure S sales tax dollars, oversight committee members learned that roughly $1.5 million is available for large local street projects.

Noting that much of the funding for minor road repairs, sidewalk repairs and striping were left over from the 2022-23 fiscal year, Wier said Crescent City has about $250,000 in its current budget that’s still unspent. There is also $525,000 in this year’s budget for a large local project, he said.

Crescent City has another $600,000 set aside in its 2024-25 fiscal year budget for an as-yet unnamed large project in addition to another $200,000 for pot hole and other minor road repairs along with sidewalk repairs.

Wier said the Measure S Oversight Committee could ask the city to use those dollars for a local contribution if the state does offer a bridge loan to help the city pay for the Pebble Beach Drive Bank Stabilization Project.

“If it plays out in that scenario, that means we have to go and secure all the permits,” Wier told the committee. “It’s not going to be an emergency project. We have to finalize the design, Coastal [Commission] has to be on Board — we have to get permits. We’re not looking at construction until next summer at the earliest.”

Another option, which the Measure S Oversight Committee favored, was continuing to use the $250,000 left in this year’s budget for pavement projects on 2nd and A Streets, to remove trip hazards on local sidewalks and do asphalt repairs.

“If we had a concrete answer from the state saying by Friday we’ll have your answer and it’s going to be yes at that point we should be able to do the Pebble Beach Drive project,” committee member Dana Reno said. “But with everything sitting in front of us, we’ve got the money allocated let’s get it taken care of.”

Reno’s colleague on the committee, Candace Tinkler, whose lives near the Pebble Beach Drive slide, said she’s not happy with the state and federal government.

“I don’t think I want the citizens of Crescent City to be left holding the bag and I really would like for them to know that the money they voted for is going to what they voted for,” she said.

Committee chairman Ernie Perry pointed out that the Crescent City Council is ultimately responsible for deciding how Measure S dollars are spent. He said if city staff receive new information from the state, he would be open to holding a special meeting.

In June 2020, councilors approved a $651,738 loan from the water fund to the general fund and entered into a $1.1 million contract with COWI North American Inc. to do the engineering and design work for the Pebble Beach Drive Bank Stabilization Project.
One concept for the beach alongside Taylor Street and the area between 9th and Preston Island incorporates a cobble berm to provide defense against waves, a planted berm and a low profile wall.

The project also involves using soldier piles and backfilling the area with riprap so it would look like a vegetated bank.

On Wednesday, Wier said another solution that may be more feasible is using a micro pile instead of soldier piles, though the city is still vetting the cost and longevity. He said he hopes to have a concrete plan in place for Pebble Beach Drive in the next month so they can start implementing some stabilization methods by next winter.

The California Coastal Commission meeting will take place at 9 a.m. May 8, May 9 and May 10 at the Elk Valley Rancheria, 2332 Howland Hill Road in Crescent City. To view an agenda, click here.


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