It looks like a sidewalk will finally be coming to San Ysidro High School.

After 11 years, the city of San Diego has pulled together full funding to fix a dangerous half-mile stretch near the school where no sidewalk exists, forcing students to negotiate a skinny dirt path next to a steep canyon. The other side of the road has a thin curb next to a hillside. Wild dogs are known to roam an alternate route.

“It’s not hopeful, wishful money,” said Bill Harris, a transportation spokesman. “It’s money we know will be there.”

The project includes more than a sidewalk. The city will widen the road and add bike lanes, retaining walls and a lighted crosswalk. The $8.2 million price tag has grown from previous estimates and is so big in part because of the perilousness of the current situation. The narrowness of the street means crews will have to cut into the hillside to make room for everything.

The city has been spending money it socked away to design the project, but as of last month was still looking for more than half the cash it needed to build it.

It found the final $4.5 million from four sources. The city had higher-than-expected receipts from its share of a regional special sales tax and plans to use that money plus a share of its tax allocation next year. The city also pulled funding from a delayed bridge project in Mission Bay and drew from local development fees.

The project isn’t a done deal yet — the City Council has to sign off. Staffers hope to secure approval by the end of June. Councilman David Alvarez, who represents the area, expected his colleagues to support the plan.

Students and parents in San Ysidro have been waiting for this sidewalk for a long time. High school Principal Hector Espinoza raised concerns about the lack of a sidewalk before the school opened in 2002. Multiple times since 2007, the city said that the sidewalk would be in place by 2010 or 2011. In 2011, Alvarez’s office told Espinoza construction would begin by April 2013.

But in all those occasions, the city was depending on fees that would come from new construction in the neighborhood to finance the sidewalk. That new construction didn’t happen, and the project was delayed.

Not anymore.

“We don’t believe we will get derailed at all,” Harris said.

Engineers still are designing the project and construction isn’t expected to start until spring 2014, Harris said. It should take a year to finish.

Over the past year, Jorge Rivas, a senior at the high school, has pushed for the sidewalk at community meetings and at City Council. He’ll have graduated by the time the sidewalk goes in. That’s OK, he says.

“I’m just glad that people are now going to have a safe place to walk,” Rivas said.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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