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With rain storms nearing and a potentially dangerous situation lurking on Kellogg Beach in La Playa, I again called Bill Harris, the San Diego storm water department spokesman, on Friday afternoon. He hadn’t returned messages left Thursday and early Friday.

I wanted to know who was responsible for the mysterious spot on Kellogg Beach that has turned into a quicksand-like swirl of sand and water during rain storms. And I wanted to know what was causing the problem and what would be done to make sure people stayed safe.

Harris said the city believes the Unified Port of San Diego may be responsible for the area. The problem spot sits below the high-tide line — on port-controlled property.

A fence was built around the spot after a rainy rescue there some two years ago. But it’s since disappeared.

Harris didn’t know what was causing the subterranean problem, though port spokesman John Gilmore told me earlier that a city pipe may run underground there. The city has responsibility for its own pipes, Gilmore said, noting that the port had repeatedly contacted the city about problems in the area.

I originally called both the port and Harris Wednesday. The port immediately sent a crew out to check the area, while other port officials checked maps and determined the city’s responsibility. They followed up Wednesday and Thursday.

By contrast, two full days after I called, the city hadn’t sent anyone out and doesn’t know what’s happening. Harris hadn’t returned two calls until I reached him on his cell phone late today.

“If it were simple it would be answered,” Harris told me. “But it’s not.”

Harris followed up moments ago with this e-mail and warning. He wrote:

We appreciate the worries expressed and will be working with the Port’s team to explore how and why the fencing was removed from this area. As I said during our most recent phone conversation, this is an area where the City and Port have common interests and may have common responsibilities.

The City’s Storm Water Department is preparing for this weekend’s rains by keeping crews and equipment on call. Should we receive reports of dangerous conditions in this area, our staff will be available to investigate and provide an appropriate response.

Also, we are already in the midst of assigning priorities to the maintenance, repair and replacement work needed for our 800 miles of pipe and 70,000 storm drain structures. While you’ve noticed that some of the facilities in this area aren’t in the best of condition, they typically do continue to function and convey storm water away from La Playa’s upstream properties.

Given your contact with the local community and the heightened interest your story may have generated, we would appreciate your help in sharing the need to be cautious when wading through water, saturated sand or traversing areas near visible outfalls following rain storms.

I will keep you informed about what we learn and how we respond to community needs in this area.

The problem in La Playa is that the pipe at the base of McCall Street — if there’s one even there — runs underground. So you wouldn’t know to avoid it.

If you see problems during the rain this weekend in La Playa, call my cell phone: 619.259.0529. Or shoot me an e-mail at rob.davis@voiceofsandiego.org. My desk line is 619.325.0529 and you can follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/robwdavis.

Rob Davis

Rob Davis was formerly a senior reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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