Forgotten La Jolla survey dusted off as potential preservation tool

This bridge on Castellana Road (circa 1930) is included in a cultural landscape survey that La Jolla Historical Society members are hoping to have adopted by the city. The survey will serve as a tool to preserve La Jolla’s landmarks when threatened by development or planning. Photos by Pat Sherman
This bridge on Castellana Road (circa 1930) is included in a cultural landscape survey that La Jolla Historical Society members are hoping to have adopted by the city. The survey will serve as a tool to preserve La Jolla’s landmarks when threatened by development or planning. Photos by Pat Sherman
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This bridge on Castellana Road (circa 1930) is included in a cultural landscape survey that La Jolla Historical Society members are hoping to have adopted by the city. The survey will serve as a tool to preserve La Jolla’s landmarks when threatened by development or planning. Photos by Pat Sherman

Historical society hopes document will help safeguard La Jolla’s character-defining features

By Pat Sherman

A comprehensive, 308-page survey of La Jolla’s cultural landmarks — from its historic buildings and majestic trees to its bridges, view corridors and cobblestone-lined curbs — has been pulled from a shelf for further consideration, nearly a decade after its completion.

The draft document was finished in 2003 and submitted to the city, though those who worked on it say the survey was shelved because the city didn’t have the budget to pay for staff to review it.

Diane Kane, who serves on La Jolla’s Development Permit Review (DPR) committee, facilitated a presentation on the long- forgotten survey at the DPR committee’s Jan. 8 meeting. The La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) retrieved the survey following media inquiries about the removal of one of two old ficus trees at the Top of the Cove restaurant last year — and the question of whether La Jolla’s planning and development documents offer protection for La Jolla’s significant trees.

“(We) remembered that we had this cultural landscape survey that nobody had ever looked at,” said Kane, who was a staff planner for San Diego’s Historical Resources Board when it was commissioned. “We started looking at it and ... we were so impressed by what we saw that we scheduled it for our (DPR) agenda this month ... to see if it’s something that, not only the historical society can use, but that community groups can use for planning purposes.

“It’s more detailed than the La Jolla Community Plan,” Kane added. “The plan is a very broad-brushed vision for the community and this is much more focused. It really clearly documents things with maps and with photographs and written descriptions.”

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This row of Italian Stone Pines on La Jolla Boulevard are included in a Historic Cultural Landscape Survey. In the 1960s purse-snatchers preyed upon elderly women from the branches, after which the property owner agreed to keep them pruned to curtail the thefts.

Former LJHS member and architect Milford Wayne Donaldson, who served as California’s State Historic Preservation Officer until his retirement in September, was contracted by the city to produce the survey. His architectural firm had produced similar surveys on Kensington, Hillcrest and Golden Hill, though those documents were approved by the city and are referenced today when significant landmarks are at odds with development.

“Cultural landscape surveys were still pretty much on the cutting edge at the time,” Donaldson said, noting that LJHS volunteers and students helped prepare the document, which updated a historical resources inventory compiled in the 1970s by former LJHS President Patricia Schaelchlin.

Once the city adopts such a survey, Donaldson said, “it becomes a nice planning document. It really helps provide a pride in the neighborhood and people look at these (resources) a lot differently than before.”

La Jolla’s cultural landscape survey includes obvious landmarks such as the Fay Avenue Bike Path, Torrey Pines City Park, Children’s Pool seawall and La Jolla Rec Center, as well as hidden gems such as two concrete, arched bridges built around 1930 and cobblestone curbs and gutters along Muirlands Drive. Significant street trees noted in the survey include various palm, ficus, juniper and coral trees, as well as Italian stone pines along the southern portion of La Jolla Boulevard.

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