Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Evelyn Frey might get her 96th birthday wish granted.
For more than five years, the longtime Manhattan Beach resident, who has been physically unable to make it down to the water for several years, has urged the city and L.A. County to explore ways to get the “physically challenged” down to the ocean.
For years, the issue was continuously placed on the back burner because of budget concerns.
The county brushed aside her recommendation of Mobi-Mats, portable rollout pathways which are used on beaches up and down California and in the Middle East, citing liability and operational concerns. In April, the county promised the city to front the initial costs and study different options for a permanent pedestrian walkway to the water. Tuesday night the issue was back on Council’s plate and they weren’t pleased. Staff, in their report, recommended that City Council deny the request for a permanent walkway due to initial and continual cost concerns.
“This is not what we wanted presented to us,” said Mayor Nick Tell. “I’m very disappointed with this. Santa Monica seems able to figure it out. I don’t know why we’re stuck with such a lousy choice.”
According to city staff, the county researched three materials for the walkway - wood lumber, concrete and a composite decking product. The wood walkways included wide gaps between the planks and uneven surfaces that could lead to trip-and-fall liability, staff said. The composite walkways included difficult-to-remove panels; damaged panels would need total replacement. The voids between the panels could also create trip-and-fall hazards, the county said. The concrete walkway was the best option, the county concluded, recommending it be placed near the El Porto concession stand, extend about halfway down the shoreline (66 feet) and measure six feet wide.
“Staff is concerned that a walkway halfway to the shoreline would not accomplish the goal of allowing seniors and those physically challenged to reach the shoreline,” staff said in their report. The purchase and installation of a concrete walkway would be $50,000.
Currently the county offers two balloon-tire wheelchairs on the beach to allow people with disabilities to get down to the water, staff noted. The wheelchairs can be checked out by contacting any ocean lifeguard.
At an April meeting, Frey told Council she asked a lifeguard for a chair.
“He said, ‘What wheelchairs?’” she said.
Councilman David Lesser said staff should have worked harder on their report and researched different cities that already have permanent walkways on their beaches.
“We’ve got to come up with an answer that really works,” Tell said. “This is such an important thing to have. We’ve got to spend some time figuring this out.”
Tell recommended that Council form a subcommittee to study the issue further.
“Hang in there, Evelyn,” he said. “We’re gonna get this done.”