Property owner disputes La Jolla Shores beach access claim

The beach below Princess Street. Photo by Dave Schwab
The beach below Princess Street. Photo by Dave Schwab

BY DAVE SCHWAB

Staff Writer

Momentum is building to restore historic beach access at Princess Street in La Jolla Shores as three advisory groups — La Jolla Town Council, its Parks and Beaches Subcommittee and the La Jolla Shores Association — are sending letters supporting that action to the California Coastal Commission.

Meanwhile, Ure Kretowicz, owner of a blufftop property at 7957 Princess St. which the public insists an existing, historic 5-foot-wide vertical easement runs through, paid a visit to La Jolla Town Council Dec. 9.  Kretowicz explained why he is resisting the public’s plea that access ought to be officially dedicated through his property allowing public access. The La Jolla groups argued that emergency access down to the beach where kayakers and other beachgoers can become trapped requiring emergency assistance during high tides is also important.

“I’m just here to clarify the circumstances surrounding this potential easement,” he told the council Dec. 9, noting it was previous property owners, the Bakers back in the '70s, who applied for permitting to remodel and expand the coastal residence which the Coastal Commission agreed to in return for the Baker’s allowing beach access through their property.

But Kretowicz said something got lost along the way in the translation of that negotiated agreement 30 years ago.

“The Bakers never got the easement. Nothing was ever signed or recorded,” he said, adding the property subsequently changed ownership twice more before he acquired it.

“We were never aware there was an easement required for public access,” Kretowicz said, noting he’s always been “happy to oblige emergency access” by lifeguards and firefighters through his property.

But it is also Kretowicz’s contention that public beach access to the cobblestone-strewn beach below his residence is no longer safe or practical due to cliff erosion there.

Kretowicz’s claims, however, ring hollow for some longtime members of the community, like Melinda Merryweather, a La Jolla Town Council Parks and Beaches subcommittee member who’s mapped and gauged the status of all of La Jolla’s beach access points.

“An easement for public beach access at Princess Street has existed ever since we had a community plan, and was a path used long before that by the Indians,” she said. “In most beach cities, at the end of every road, there has to be a beach access. At Princess Street, there happens to be two because Spindrift Drive and Princess Street both dead-end.”

Merryweather disputes Kretowicz’s claim the easement is no longer usable. “It’s hard to get up and down,” she said. “But the lifeguards can get up and down, and I’ve seen Kretowicz’s kids get up and down it with a kayak.”

It’s Merryweather’s contention that it’s time to return beach access back to the community at Princess Street.

“I want it back as full-blown public access so people can use the ecological reserve,” she said.

   
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