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At the November 2 meeting of the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Council, members approved the placement of 15 benches along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. The council’s bench committee, chaired by Camilla Ingram, worked for two months on bench designs and placement.

Community members walked the park trail from Adair Street to Ladera Street to determine where benches are needed. The committee came back to the council with a recommendation for 20 locations. The council approved the recommendations.

The committee rejected the bench design put forward by the Park and Recreation Department, stating that the benches would not stand up to the harsh marine environment and were not aesthetically proper for the park’s master-plan guidelines.

The bench committee recommended and the council approved benches made with ipe, a tropical hardwood usually sourced from Brazil. The Park and Recreation Department took the recommendations under advisement.

At the meeting, Mike Ruiz and Dan Daneri of Park and Rec. presented a plan for 15 bench locations within the park and technical drawings of the ipe wood benches. Ingram pushed for the 20 bench locations to be approved, but Ruiz stated that because of ADA regulations, 15 benches are all they can go forward with at this time.

The cost of installing 15 ipe wood benches that conform to ADA guidelines is $43,000. Currently, the Park and Rec Department has $20,000 available for benches.

The Park and Rec Department will now put up for bid the construction and installation of the first 6 benches. The remainder will be installed as funds become available either from the city or from charitable contributions.

Currently there are 15 “unofficial” guardrail benches along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. They may be removed at any time under orders from the city’s Risk Management Department. The park council voted to leave the unofficial benches in place. Ruiz stated that his department is focusing on installing the new benches, and the status of the guardrail benches is out of his hands at this time.

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PistolPete Nov. 5, 2009 @ 9:15 p.m.

Don't forget to make those benches so uncomfortable that the homeless won't be tempted to get a few winks. ;-D


Fred Williams Nov. 5, 2009 @ 11:51 p.m.

Google finds "heavy duty park bench" prices maxing out at $800 each including thermoplastic coatings that should be good enough for twenty years by the sea.

Some heavy duty benches cost less than $200 and come with three year warranties.

So why are the taxpayers charged almost three thousand dollars each?


PistolPete Nov. 6, 2009 @ 1:03 a.m.

Same reason we bought $20,000 toilet seats years ago? :-D


SurfPuppy619 Nov. 6, 2009 @ 7:42 a.m.

The cost of installing 15 ipe wood benches that conform to ADA guidelines is $43,000.

The ADA will add some cost to the project-but still $43K is an insane amount of $$$ to install 15 benches.

And I am assuming this price includes the bench itself-which is probably not the case considering this is gov.


JF Nov. 6, 2009 @ 8:38 p.m.

Fred, Purchasing adds a percentage to the cost of everything that they put a bid out on. I think it's 20%. That's how they fund that department. Then some other department will add a percentage for designing the whole thing. Water will add a fee for ensuring that they won't be drilling into water lines. Etc., etc.

It's frustrating as hell for us when we get a grant for fire equipment and other city departments sponge off half the grant money. Then they take their own sweet time going to bid on things or purchasing so that the grant expires and we're left with crap.


Fred Williams Nov. 6, 2009 @ 9:32 p.m.

JF, your explanation sounds spot on. Jeez!

Instead of residents donating money for benches, you'd think the city would be glad to allow them to install them personally...but we all know that's against the rules too.

And that's a pity. Look at the houses along Sunset Cliffs. The homeowners could afford to collectively install something fantastic for the public to better access and appreciate the place, making their homes more valuable in the process.

Instead they'll get city benches, guaranteed ugly, expensive, and (probably) designed more to keep homeless people sleeping than to allow the public to sit comfortably and watch the sunset.


JF Nov. 6, 2009 @ 11:37 p.m.

It's not necessarily against the rules. The problems is that they have to follow the rules -- ADA especially. That adds to the cost, which scares residents off. The the city attorney's office gets involved, so the residents have to sign hold harmless agreements, etc. That scares of potential donors. It really sucks.

Believe it or not, a lot of us can plainly see some of the excesses in gov't, and how to fix them. Alas, there's not a lot we can do at our level. Various laws and various politicians get in our way.

One good example -- do you really think that we (street level firefighters) want mansion fire houses? Give us a decent place with good industrial, easy to clean interiors and we're happy. But the law and politicians say that the stations must fit in with the neighborhood, that we must have public art installed and that we must be ADA compliant. Add all that to the fees that we pay other agencies and you've doubled the cost of a fire station. It's ridiculous. Of course, we've finally gotten back to having developers pay, so that helps.

I'd rather spend the money on spare fire apparatus, so we have a big surge capability. But they don't ask me.


Fred Williams Nov. 7, 2009 @ 8:52 p.m.

JF, right on again.

ADA in firehouses?! Uh, if you're in a wheelchair, I'm guessing it's not a great idea to become a professional firefighter. Dispatcher...great. But slinging hose? Nuh uh...

You are absolutely correct about surge capabilities. I think we agree that firefighting/paramedic work, though fluctuating daily, has a certain average level...until we're hit with a firestorm and we suddenly require ten times the resources.

It would make sense to me that developers in the back country areas, and existing homeowners on canyon edge properties, ought to be able to forward locate equipment and water infrastructure at strategic places.

Further, residents of the neighborhood ought to be trained on how to prepare that equipment and basic operations so they're helping before firefighters even arrive. The locals should also have responsibility for evacuation routines, with elderly and vulnerable people identified in advance.

So much we could do to improve fire safety in San Diego.

So much we could do to improve almost any operation of our local governments. For such a smart and beautiful place, why do we have such corrupt, wasteful, and sometimes criminally stupid government?


JF Nov. 8, 2009 @ 2:13 p.m.

Fred, Firehouses have to be ADA because they are public buildings. We give tours to the public. The public stops by with questions about fire safety. At the insistence of former council members, some fire stations had areas added to use as community meeting rooms. Of course, they've never been used for that as they're around 12' x 12'. Wonder what that cost? Nonetheless, we should be able to serve the public we serve.

Richard Rider has often made the point that we're spending more per capita on gov't services than pre-Prop 13. He is absolutely correct in that fact, but not necessarily on the cause. In my mind, we have a lot more expensive mandates than we did then. ADA, sewage treatment, etc. Yet there hasn't been a tax increase to cover the cost of those mandates. Therefore, day-to-day services suffer.

As far as surge capacity, I don't agree that residents should be trained to use fire equipment. They would essentially become a volunteer fire department then. That requires training, workers compensation insurance, personal protective gear, etc. Hugely expensive, yet few would ever fight a fire. Why not have the equipment and call back off duty firefighters to staff it when the weather calls for it?

SDFD is just about to add 8 new apparatus to the fleet. The plan was to keep the old ones as reserve. Alas, that plan may go by the wayside in this latest budget crunch. Sad. We've also developed ways to build capacity on the cheap by buying smaller pickup type apparatus, but there was no budget for that, so now we keep boxes of equipment with the thought of renting pickups to put it in. How sad is that?

As far as government? Someone once said, "Anyone smart enough to be president is also smart enough to know that they don't want the job." Same applies to local government. A city council member in SD only makes $75K/year. Anyone smart enough for the job is easily making double that in private industry.


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