Story poles and oleander along I-5

Oleander bush
  • Oleander bush

Hi Matt:

Travelling between San Diego and Oceanside via the 5 I’ve noticed a couple of things. At the Via de la Valle turn-off on both sides of the freeway there are white PVC pipes standing like antennae. They’ve been there for years, but what are they? I’ve also seen a lot of dead and dying oleanders in the freeway medians. Does Caltrans plan on replacing them anytime soon?

— Roy

Those are story poles. You want to know, “what are story poles?” Well, story poles are erected prior to construction projects as a way to demarcate where the outlines and boundaries of new buildings will be. Building codes vary by city, but Solana Beach has strict regulations about building height and there are story poles all over town on the sites of proposed projects. The poles stand in for buildings and demonstrate that the potential buildings will conform to the municipal building rules. Neighbors have a chance to assess how new construction will affect their views and lodge objections if there’s a consensus that the neighborhood will be impacted negatively by the new buildings.

Story poles are a complete, albeit small, industry in themselves. Most of the story poles in North County are put up by C Story Poles in Encinitas. Chris, who owns the company, is a professional surveyor, which gives him a leg up in matters of property lines. The “Ida Avenue Project,” which is the one visible from I-5 just before Via de la Valle, is an older, but still viable, plan to erect a series of townhouses. The details are a matter of public record and can be seen at Solana Beach’s city hall.

As for the oleanders, their future is nebulous since “oleander leaf scorch,” a relatively new disease that preys on them, has reared its head in San Diego County and beyond. It’s likely that the ubiquitous oleanders will be replaced with something else until the population of insects that spread the disease (an invasive species called “sharpshooters”) stabilizes and declines.

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