Del Mar: NCTD’s geotechnical study missing analysis on bluff stability

DEL MAR — Following a review of North County Transit District’s updated fencing proposal along the Del Mar bluffs, questions still linger over the environmental impact chain-link partitions would have on the stability of the city’s iconic sandstone cliffs.

During a presentation to the transit district board this week, NCTD representatives claim the agency’s third-party geotechnical studies, performed by Leighton Consulting, conclude that fencing will not have an impact on bluff stability. The presentation was similar to the report presented to the Del Mar City Council earlier this month.

In response, the City of Del Mar hired San Diego-based Atlas Geotechnical Consultants to conduct a review of the study, after which Atlas’ pointed to several unanswered questions and information gaps within the transit agency’s commissioned report.

“Their recommendations were that the documents from Leighton should not be accepted until a slate of questions and missing analysis were addressed,” Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland said during this week’s NCTD board meeting.

The two-page analysis, signed by three state-licensed geologists and engineers for Atlas Geotechnical Consultants, said that “(Leighton) does not discuss geologic hazards, including slope stability and the potential presence of landslides. The sensitive segments of the bluff could be affected by drilling a large number of piers, creating a weakened plane.”

Del Mar residents, officials have expressed frustration regarding the lack of public input on NCTD's fencing plans. Courtesy photo
Del Mar residents, officials have expressed frustration over the lack of public input on NCTD’s fencing plans. Courtesy photo

“In our opinion, the referenced geotechnical documents should not be accepted until the questions and comments above are satisfactorily addressed,” Atlas concluded.

To install fencing along the city’s bluffs, the transit district must drill holes into the ground, which many believe will allow for more stormwater drainage and destabilization.

“The expert report that NCTD has, with respect to the effect of fencing, is cursory and inadequate to address the serious issues that would be affected by the destabilizing effect of fencing,” Del Mar resident Shirli Weiss told the NCTD board this week.

Gaasterland, who has been vocal in her strong opposition to NCTD’s fencing plans, also expressed frustration with the lack of input from elected officials in the drafting of plans.

NCTD has a working group of staff members shaping the fencing plans along the railway on the Del Mar bluffs — none of whom are elected officials.

“It would be terrific to have an opportunity for us to be able to talk,” Gaasterland said.

Tony Kranz, chair of the NCTD executive committee, said elected officials will be able to be heard during later discussions on the topic as plans continue to be formed.

“There would be a point where we would get presentations in closed session would be my guess. So standby for those opportunities,” Kranz said. “Once the working group gets to the point that it’s necessary to speak with the elected officials of each jurisdiction then that will come up next.”