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New Street Lights Could Transform Waterfront, Seacoasters Say

Seacoast Drive needs more lighting, consultants working with the city said. Lights costing near $100,000 may be installed on the waterfront in the future. Small parks and landmark signs were also suggested.

Councilman Ed Spriggs said the idea gave him chills and called it “almost a dream come true.” A Seacoast Drive property owner called it transformational.

But Mayor Jim Janney hesitates to call it the “end all” for Imperial Beach.

The subject was street lighting, and much light was shone on various proposals at a Jan. 30 workshop meeting of the City Council.

With a few months to go before the new Pier South hotel opens, the Imperial Beach City Council heard suggestions on how to improve the street from land planning and design specialists.

The presentation by Lawrence Thornburgh of Nasland Engineering and Patrick O'Connor with the urban design firm Parterre focused on pedestrian-scale lighting.

The consultants also suggested the city consider things like small parks on the street, gateway signs and other additions to give Seacoast Drive life, vitality and a unique identity during the day and after dark.

City Councilmembers asked the consultants to continue to work with the city to bring pedestrian-scale lighting proposals to City Council in the future.

Lighting on the waterfront streetscape has been an issue of discussion and contention for City Council for the past year.

Supporters have called the lighting vital to the success of the new hotel and the city's future and necessary to attract new businesses while detractors like Mayor Jim Janney say the street just got new lighting and other parts of the city need to be considered.

Like the Cedros Design District in Encinitas or Little Italy downtown, a special district needs a combination of street lighting for cars, lights for people walking and special event lighting like lights on palm trees in Pier Plaza, O'Connor said.

"You do have some of that on Seacoast, but maybe not enough," he said.

Nasland Engineering have been awarded contracts worth near $350,000 in redevelopment funds since 2007, according to city documents.

Thornburgh and O'Connor suggest the city install 13 pedestrian-scale lights for a test run from Date to Evergreen avenues. Thornburgh estimates the lights will cost roughly $100,000 to purchase and install.

Pedestrian-scale lighting from Old Palm Avenue and down Seacoasdt Drive to Elder Avenue could cost anywhere between $200,000 and $350,000, he said.

Last year the city paid to have new lights installed on Seacoast Drive. The number of lights on the street were increased from 22 to 34 and reduced in height from 30- to 24-feet.

Before new sheppard's hook style posts and lights were installed, members of the Seacoast Drive stakeholder group–the Seacoasters–and Pacifica Companies, owner of the new hotel, urged the city to consider pedestrian-scale lighting at a meeting last March but the idea was rejected in a 3-2 vote.

Councilmembers Lorie Bragg and Ed Spriggs, both members of the Seacoasters, voted in favor of pedestrian-scale lighting.

Among multiple options presented to City Council at the time, Public Works Department director Hank Levien estimated that installing 40 solar panel lights would cost roughly $100,000.

A solar option was not considered in analysis of Seacoast lighting by Nasland Engineering, Thornburgh said.

Some opposed the idea due to concern that redevelopment funds slated to pay for the lights could be rejected by the state. Mayor Jim Janney opposed the idea of investing more money in the waterfront without first considering other parts of the city.

“As many know, I don’t consider Seacoast the end all for all of Imperial Beach. I still worry about those folks that live to the east side of 9th Street. And from that standpoint, I’m having a hard time doing it," he said last March.

The street needs more points of light to attract the eye of drivers and pedestrians, Thornburgh said.

"What you have on Seacoast now are tall lights which are very energy efficient and they're great and they throw light down the street but they don't catch your eye cause you can't see the light source.

"The goal is to get light where you can see the bulb. You want to see the light source," Thornburgh said. "We think something that you can see the bulb would be an asset to Seacoast Drive."

Among other recommendations made by the consultants, O'Connor suggested the city install mini parks at the corner of Palm Avenue and Elwood Avenue on Seacoast Drive.

"In Little Italy I've never really seen anyone sitting in these things, but nonetheless when you drive by or you're walking by, you begin to say to yourself: 'Oh that's really kind of special. What a great caveat,'" he said.

Mini parks or parklets would require working with the Port of San Diego, said City Manager Gary Brown.

To increase the street's identity and branding opportunities, Thornburgh and O'Connor also recommend Seacoast Drive get a landmark sign and possibly adopt a new name like the Seacoast Esplanade.

IB Patch asked readers what they think of the idea of a landmark or gateway sign on Seacoast Drive or elsewhere in Imperial Beach. Click here to view results or vote.

Gateway signs or some kind of landmarks could be installed at the corner of Palm Avenue and Elkwood on Seacoast Drive and act as book ends for the start and finish of a Seacoast Esplanade and help make the area a unique place people want to visit, O'Connor said.

"When you come down Palm and you hit Seacoast now, there's nothing really noticeable either via lighting or a gateway sign or just a place to gather and sit," he said.

No cost estimates for a landmark sign or parklets were offered.

The new hotel and look of Seacoast Drive should be part of a general marketing campaign to tell other parts of San Diego about exciting things happening in IB, Thornburgh said.

"I think kind of getting out some marketing or public PR work on ... really, the hotel opens, let it be known, the hotel is open, there's restaurants here," Thornburgh said.

"You have to get the word out to the rest of the community–Chula Vista, National City. Kind of market Seacoast Drive so people come down to the area," he said.

The most outspoken member of city government in favor of pedestrian-scale lighting Councilman Ed Spriggs said the presentation gave him chills.

"This has been almost a dream come true. I've been waiting almost two years since I've been on council to have an opportunity to see some broader vision and ideas of what Seacoast Drive could actually look like," he said.

Councilmembers Lorie Bragg and Bobby Patton and Mayor Jim Janney also called the presentation thorough and insightful.

Over the years local governing bodies have made changes to the waterfront commercial district like adding art at Seacoast Drive street ends and the creation of Portwood Pier Plaza by the Port of San Diego.

For its part, the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency worked to enhance the area with the facade improvement program and various street improvements.

More recently, crosswalks with wave designs were installed and palm trees in Pier Plaza were lit by Thornburgh's company Nasland Engineering.

In preparation for the new hotel detailed short- and long-term plans were put together by city staff to unify the business community, beautify the area and carry out a marketing strategy. The plans were turned down due to a lack of funding.

A marketing contract the city had with the public relations firm Che was canceled to save money last June.

Bob Miller owns property on Seacoast Drive, leads the Seacoasters and has been a major supporter of pedestrian-scale lighting.

"I don't think anyone can really imagine the impact of this until we really see it," he said about the hotel and possible new lighting.

Seacoast could be world-class, Miller said, but he encouraged the consultants to take a look at traffic on the street at night.

"It's dead. You drive down the street at night this time of year and there's just no activity," Miller said. "What you're proposing here has the possibility of just totally transforming this into something unique where people really want to get there."

What do you think about current lighting on Seacoast Drive? Is it sufficient or in need of improvement? Do you want Seacoast Drive to be more active at night? Share in comments.

Marie Donahoe February 15, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Seacoast Drive is just fine the way it is. I don't think tourists are going to spend their time in Imperial Beach because it's a nice quiet community not a rioutous night party life place. Why would we want to change that? Why is everyone so excited to bow down to this new Hotel which is really not very attractive anyway? Just sayin.
Jon Hall February 15, 2013 at 03:52 PM
"The street needs more points of light to attract the eye of drivers and pedestrians, Thornburgh said. "What you have on Seacoast now are tall lights which are very energy efficient and they're great and they throw light down the street but they don't catch your eye cause you can't see the light source. "The goal is to get light where you can see the bulb. You want to see the light source," Thornburgh said. "We think something that you can see the bulb would be an asset to Seacoast Drive ..." SERIOUSLY ??? SPEND UP TO HALF A MILLION DOLLARS BECAUSE YOU THINK PEOPLE NEED TO *SEE THE LIGHT BULB* ??? Want to catch their attention ??? Women in Bikinis --- Men in Speedos --- Zonies in Socks and Sandals --- Harleys & Vettes --- all will get their attention once they are at the Beach HOWEVER ... There are only two proven ways to get people here First is to have an open beach with fire rings --- and LOTS OF AVAILABLE PARKING Second is to have entertainment --- Night Spots where folks want to go repeatedly --- where adult fun is encouraged ...
Shorebird February 15, 2013 at 05:20 PM
they'll do whatever the want and damn the residents opinions..why bother
Shorebird February 15, 2013 at 05:34 PM
might add there are too many residential streets suffering the need for street lights, they will continue to go begging while this City Council acid dream hotel has become the focal point for a town that has zip/zero nothing else to offer. No boutiques, no grocery stores, nada. I can hardly wait to see the cartel darlings pouring in to stay at our 4star hospice next to the sewage runoff beach.
Pamela Olvera February 15, 2013 at 09:21 PM
change is GOOD . and inevitable, thank goodness.
Jay February 16, 2013 at 01:58 AM
build more parks, what a joke. The city cant afford the ones already here. Sports Park could be gone any day. That means no more little league and girls softball. wake up and fix the things that need to be fixed.
James Coates February 16, 2013 at 03:19 AM
The rest of the city needs attention. Money has already been invested in lighting Seacoast. Drive down 11th street in the Oneonta subdivision by the grade school or any of the other residential streets to see what the neighborhoods have for lighting. Change is good but only when it is done in the right way. The lighting project on Seacoast was a good idea but when implemented, it was done wrong. If the desired outcome which was to provide pedestrian lighting it should have been done right the first time. Why would we the majority of the tax paying citizens who do not live or have a businees on Seacoast, want to pay to add additional lights on Seacoast? It should have been done right the first time and those who had oversight for the project (city staff, mayor and city council) did not do their job. Certainly, change is good. And this is where we should start.
Libi Uremovic February 16, 2013 at 01:03 PM
'...reduced in height from 30- to 24-feet. ...' the contract was for 20' poles ...if they had followed the original contract the lighting would be close enough to the ground to provide pedestrian lighting... the city should demand the original contract be fulfilled and the additional money paid for the extra length in poles and wiring be reimbursed to the city... ,...but that's never been a consideration.... are they giving the contract to the same companies that screwed the people just a few months ago...?
Libi Uremovic February 16, 2013 at 01:06 PM
'...Councilman Ed Spriggs ... “almost a dream come true.”... the theory that the city won't just screw over the public again is nothing more than a 'dream'... let the councilmen pay for the additional costs out of their own pocket since they refuse to stop the pillaging of the city...let their dreams be everyone else's reality and see how much they like it...
Mike G February 16, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Seems like a waste of time and money since everything south of the pier plaza looks like a ghetto. I'd think the less light on that eyesore the better.
someonewhowasconsideringmovingtoimperialbeach February 17, 2013 at 12:28 AM
That's exactly what I was thinking when I read this, 'Show them the lightbulb, and they will come'! and I agree with the bikini, speedos, skates, a pelican bar, even a stand up beer bar would be awesome.
Kay Kardian-Porter February 17, 2013 at 02:18 PM
I did not think I would agree with the mayor...but I will have to agree with his statement that we need street lights on other parts of the city. If its for the new overkill hotel then let them pay for it. There are not any efficient lighting on the side streets off of Seacoast. I remember years ago someone complained about this and the city said..:" the residents who live on these streets provide the light from their homes". It is still that way because there is no efficient light from Deliah all the way down. So I say tell the hotel to pay for the lights. I still would like to see the alleyway behind the 600 block of Seacoast repaired its been this way for years. Not to get off the subject but its sad there are pot holes that will take you to china. SO FIX THE DAM ALLEYWAY THAT EVERYONE DRIVES ON. Its rediculous how they talk about lights and parks and this alleyway is so dangerous. Oh and the residents provide the light to this alleyway. All for the name of this gigantic hotel give me a break.
Pop Quiz February 18, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Maybe the old street lights (left over from the acid dream hotel) could be installed on California street. It is as dark as a hang mans heart at night..You can be confident; The City council will eventually install the new lighting on Seacoast. They will ignore the residents and it will cost 10x's more than it should.. I just want their (city council/hotel owners) left overs for the residents use and safety. Please
Shorebird February 18, 2013 at 04:43 PM
How about more street lights on 7th street so you beloved bicyclers don't get run over after dark (as well as skateboarders) oh yeah and some money for a public restroom that is not someone's back yard immediately adjacent to your bike path.
Pop Quiz November 15, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Spriggs is giddy. My street is still dangerously dark, I am not so giddy
Mike G November 15, 2013 at 09:30 PM
My street is dark, narrow, littered and usually tagged at least weekly. I am also somewhat less giddy than Mr Spriggs. $500K pays to remove a lot of graffiti.
Mike G November 15, 2013 at 09:40 PM
@ Shorebird, 7th and bike path is too far away from I.B.'s supposed new crown jewel, I'll call it the Hotel del I.B., to be of any importance. Since everyone staying at our new Shangrila will be coming straight from the airport, over the bridge, through 'Nado, down the strand, exiting at Rainbow and travelling to our soon to be world famous Eco-Tourism boutique destination (yeah right) they won't even be subjected to the eyesore that is STILL 9th and Palm, much less the untended streets of the unwashed masses. Just sayin'.

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