Community works to protect La Jolla bike path from development

The Fay Avenue Bike Path is a popular place for dogs and their owners to get fresh air and exercise. Pat Sherman photos
The Fay Avenue Bike Path is a popular place for dogs and their owners to get fresh air and exercise. Pat Sherman photos
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The Fay Avenue Bike Path is a popular spot for dogs and their owners to get some fresh air and exercise. Pat Sherman photos

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■ Dedicating open space in San Diego:

sdcanyonlands.org

By Pat Sherman

Members of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) and La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. (LJP&B) advisory groups are asking city officials to protect a sliver of land used as a bike path from any future development.

The deadline to dedicate the strip as open space without cost to the city or normal bureaucratic hurdles is Dec. 31.

Nestled behind a residential area spanning from Nautilus Street in WindanSea to south Bird Rock, the Fay Avenue Bike Path has served as a popular respite for runners, cyclists and walkers for decades. Framed by eucalyptus trees, it features sweeping ocean vistas and an array of native flora and fauna.

The trail, which follows the former San Diego, Pacific Beach & La Jolla Railroad line, was originally set aside by the city for a once-planned southward expansion of Fay Avenue — a project the community has since soundly rejected.

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Portions of the Fay Avenue Bike Path wind from Nautilus Street and Fay Avenue south through Bird Rock, ending just north of pacific Beach. The community is asking the city to dedicate the path as open space to protect it from future development.

Though the land has been “designated” as open space by the city, under such designation the San Diego City Council could still vote to use the land for an alternate purpose, or sell it to a private developer.

However, if the contiguous parcels were to become “dedicated” open space, a two-thirds majority public vote would be required to transfer the land for an alternate use.

During LJP&B’s October meeting, the organization unanimously approved a motion to support efforts to make the Fay Avenue Bike Path dedicated open space.

“Historically, it’s part of who we are,” said LJP&B Board President Patrick Ahern, who uses the path for runs. “It keeps the soul of La Jolla intact.”

The idea to dedicate the Fay Avenue Bike Path and other open space throughout San Diego was born out of a city exercise conducted in the early ’90s, during which city staff created a list of about 16,000 acres it would like dedicated as open space.

“Then they realized how much it would cost,” LJCPA Vice President Joe LaCava recalled. “They said, ‘We don’t have the money to do this, let’s just wait.’ ”

A bill authored by state Sen. Christine Kehoe in 2007 resulted in the conversion of 6,600 acres on the city’s list from “designated” to “dedicated” open space. However, city staff removed the Fay Avenue Bike Path from consideration at that time.

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Friends and neighbors often meet along the path, while taking advantage of the popular open space.

Kehoe authored similar legislation this year (SB 1169) that would give the city council the ability to dedicate more than 11,000 acres as open space in one fell swoop.

The legislation could save the city as much as $2 million in land surveys, engineering costs and staff time normally associated with the process. However, the city council must act before the legislation’s Dec. 31 deadline to take advantage of the cost savings.

LaCava said the process of dedication would give the land “a much greater level of protection.”

However, dedicating land as open space is no easy feat, particularly when adjacent property owners have encroached upon the land, as many have along certain stretches of the Fay Avenue Bike Path. Driveways intersect the path at several points, and the La Jolla Methodist Church has a playground on one portion of the land.

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