Newport Avenue is the most important commercial corridor in Ocean Beach. The avenue’s historic buildings, bars, eateries, and antique shops rate high on the funk scale, drawing people from all over San Diego and beyond.
But drive the street and you’ll discover ruts, gouges, dips, cracks, and other breaches. A recent announcement, then, that the avenue is about to be repaved for the first time in nearly four decades struck many as an early Christmas present. But not everyone is ready to thank Santa.
As early as this February, heavy equipment will be used to dig in and pulverize Newport Avenue between Abbott and Guizot streets — a six-block stretch — in preparation for a new layer of asphalt. The whole job will take three days, possibly jeopardizing the weekly Wednesday farmers’ market held on the street, said John Ly, aide to Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
An asphalt overlay is a treatment reserved for the city’s worst streets. Often, the procedure becomes necessary when a street has not received periodic maintenance that extends the life of a street, such as a slurry seal, Ly said recently at the final 2015 public meeting of the Ocean Beach Town Council board of directors.
In a follow-up email, Ly said he didn’t know if the life of Newport Avenue was prematurely shortened due to deferred maintenance and referred further inquiries to the city’s Communications Department. The city did not respond to several emails for this story.
But Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association, said merchants have struggled with the road for decades. There’s even evidence that, when maintenance was attempted, it was misapplied — raising the height of the street’s crown in some parts and exacerbating flooding that occurs during heavy rains.
“[F]or the last 20 years we have been trying to get Newport Avenue on the radar to be resurfaced,” Knox said in an email.
In the previous decade, a community development block grant was approved to revitalize the street, including drainage improvements, street grinding and resurfacing, the installation of concrete gutters, and beautification measures. But a significant amount of the money wound up being spent to “study and assess the needs” of the project, Knox said. It was never fully funded and eventually abandoned before it was complete, city records show.
Part of the project would have corrected prior unsuccessful maintenance projects, Knox said.
“We hoped to accomplish two things: one, reduce the height of the street by 3 or 5 inches; two, reduce the flooding of the businesses and sidewalks that happens with heavy rainfall. Newport Avenue itself should be able to carry heavy rainwater down the hill rather than overflowing the curbs. If you look at old photos of Newport Avenue, the curbs were pretty substantial and protected the businesses from constant flooding,” Knox said.
Proper maintenance “would probably have saved us a lot of problems over the years,” she said.
The contract for repaving the street is in the planning phase. The contractor will have a list of streets with discretion to complete the list in the order it chooses. Construction will take place between February and May, Ly said.
After 20 years of false starts, Knox isn’t holding her breath. “I’ll believe it if and when I see it,” she said.
Other upcoming repaving projects include: West Point Loma Boulevard between Spray and Abbott streets and between Cable Street and Nimitz Boulevard; and Froude Street between Adair and Alhambra streets. A slurry seal on Voltaire Street from Ebers Street to Catalina Boulevard should be complete by the end of January, Ly said.
The last time Newport Avenue west of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard was paved was June of 1977, city documents show.