Safe Passage Not Guaranteed: Tunnels Under PCH Are Filled with Sand

Local homeowners associations pay individuals to help clean out the pedestrian tunnels that are located under Pacific Coast Highway.

The winds were fierce this past week, blowing sand into the tunnels at Will Rogers State Beach and making it difficult to walk under the highway at Santa Monica Canyon.

There are two pedestrian tunnels, built circa 1940, that ensure safe passage under the six lanes of Pacific Coast Highway to the beach. One is at the corner of West Channel/Chautauqua, and the second is a few blocks south, below Ocean Avenue.

Canyon resident Sharon Kilbride made a plea for the County to help clear the sand from the beach-side entrances to the W. Channel tunnel.

In a March 16 email to Crystal Diaz, L.A. County Supervisor for Beaches and Harbors, Kilbride wrote: “Please have your team remove and push back all the sand that has built up against the wall on the exterior of the tunnel and clear the outside steps leading to the beach. The sand is so high that it is blowing directly into the tunnel.”

Kilbride has said that the local homeowners associations, BOCA and SMCCA, approved her idea to employ homeless folks to clean the tunnels weekly. “If the community did not maintain these tunnels, they would be a health hazard,” she said.  Homeless individuals are paid by the HOA’s to shovel out the sand and clean the tunnels.

During a particularly rainy season (2015), when the tunnels flooded, which Kilbride and the late George Wolfberg asked Caltrans for help, since PCH is its responsibility.

In 2015, this editor spoke to Kilbride about maintenance inside the tunnels. “Neither the City nor Caltrans will clean them,” she said. “We painted them last year.”

On Tuesday this week, Kilbride told Circling the News: “We have battled with the City and Caltrans over the cleaning and sand issues with the pedestrian tunnels for years. When Bill Rosendahl was councilman, his office had his senior counsel Norman Kulla try to work out which agency was responsible. Neither Caltrans nor the City had a contract for these issues.”

She said that Caltrans, if contacted, will remove water from the tunnel and will fix lights. Beaches and Harbors will only remove the sand from the exterior areas of the tunnels.

According to Kilbride, Diaz had a crew take away sand from the west entrance of the tunnel on Tuesday (March 16), but that the upper area [near the highway] is still an issue.

“Stanley, our homeless fellow, got most of the sand removed from the interior today and will complete tomorrow,” Kilbride said. “It’s a shame because he had to remove all the sand last Saturday from the previous windstorm.”

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