Neighbors take issue with La Jolla nursing home traffic, noise

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An ambulance leaves La Jolla Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on Torrey Pines Road, passing a condo building next door where residents say they are affected by noise and traffic from the convalescent home. Pat Sherman

By Pat Sherman

Residents of condominium buildings in the 2500 block of Torrey Pines Road say noise and traffic from an adjacent convalescent home is diminishing their quality of life.

They also say speeding traffic and congestion along the busy thoroughfare is creating a hazard for pedestrians who have to park along the opposite side of Torrey Pines Road, as well as vehicles trying to turn left onto Torrey Pines.

“We have on-site parking, but it’s not enough and they don’t have enough either,” said Ted Cosby, a resident of the condo building at 2510 Torrey Pines Road, pointing to the convalescent home directly adjacent his property, whose visitors and employees are often forced to park on the opposite side of Torrey Pines Road, dodging four lanes of traffic while crossing on foot. Cosby said he’s seen pedestrians stuck in the middle of the road for stretches, unable to cross. “You constantly have to jostle in between the speed racers on Fridays and Saturday nights,” said Cosby, who has lived in his unit for 16 years. “(Employees) get off at different times of day and night. … It’s a deathtrap.”

Audre Mckenzie, another resident of 2510 Torrey Pines Road, who serves on the property’s homeowner association board, said she’s seen accidents when people try to exit the convalescent home onto Torrey Pines, including vehicles that lost control and breached the sidewalk, destroying bus benches and cable boxes in front of her building.

“It’s a dangerous situation with the amount of cars, the change of staff and guests coming in and out of the convalescent home,” Mckenzie said, noting she is not aware of a pedestrian being hit.

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City officials say lighted crosswalks are not a viable option to keep pedestrians safe on this stretch of Torrey Pines Road as they cross back and forth from condominium buildings and a convalescent home.

As a remedy, residents are asking the city to install lighted crosswalks so drivers will be able to see when pedestrians cross, particularly at night, or a stoplight like one existing at another condominium building toward La Jolla Parkway.

A representative for the office of District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner said the city’s Traffic Engineering department is completing a study of this stretch of Torrey Pines Road.

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City officials say signs like this one in front of the La Jolla Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 2552 Torrey Pines Rd. were not installed by the city and will be removed. The city is investigating who painted the curb in front of the facility green.

However, Bill Harris, a supervising public information officer with the City of San Diego’s Transportation and Storm Water Department, said the requested pedestrian crosswalks do not work on this stretch of roadway due to a lack of a “specific location where pedestrians can be channelized across,” and will not be added. Instead, Harris said the city plans to install electronic signs alerting drivers to their current speed on either side of the road, as well as a “flashing beacon with pedestrian warning signs to alert motorists when there may be pedestrians crossing.”

“We don’t have a funding source for that yet,” Harris said, noting the signs aren’t eligible for funding by the city’s Transnet sales tax. “We’re going to be looking potentially for community service funds that would be available through city council offices (about $50,000), but we don’t know where that would come from yet.”

Harris said the two-hour parking signs posted in front of the convalescent home (La Jolla Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 2552 Torrey Pines Road) were not installed by the city, and will be removed.

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Much to the dismay of nearby residents, the La Jolla Nursing & Rehabilitation Center building is exempt from the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance’s 6-foot minimum ‘sound wall’ mandate.

Cacophonous conditions

Mckenzie said the convalescent home administration, which did not respond to

La Jolla Light’s

phone calls by press time, did address the loud cries of dementia patients several years ago, which echoed toward her building.

However, she said she and other residents are still dealing with loud noise from employees exiting and entering the property during early morning and late-hour shift changes, ambulances arriving and departing, and deliveries sometimes prior to 6 a.m., when the trucks’ backup signals and hydraulic lifts awaken her and her neighbors.

“The staff comes in after midnight with loud car stereos … clicking car alarms and sometimes setting off other car alarms,” Mckenzie said. “The way the sound carries down the canyon, it’s like they’re in the room with us.”

Mckenzie and recently relocated resident Bettyanne Pernice — who for years battled the noise issue — cite the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (PDO), the community’s blueprint for development. It states that all commercial development abutting residential zones must have a solid masonry wall at least 6-feet tall between the properties to block sound.

Mckenzie said she was told the roughly 200-bed La Jolla Nursing and Rehabilitation Center would consult its attorney about adding the sound wall, although they have not committed to build it.

The property, once owned by Scripps Health, has changed hands several times, gradually increasing its capacity, she said.

“It’s not a senior residence,” Mckenzie said. “It’s a full-fledged convalescent hospital with a paid nursing staff in a residential area. They’ve got a full dining hall in there. It’s a constant in and out of supplies. I don’t feel they should have been able to ramp up to that kind of capacity in that location without studies to see how that would impact the ingress and egress.”

Harris said La Jolla Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was developed as a nursing home in 1966, prior to establishment of La Jolla’s PDO, and as such the stipulations attached to its original conditional use permit (which do not require the sound wall) are essentially grandfathered in. The property was later rezoned as residential (also prior to the establishment of the PDO).

“The development predates the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance requirement for the wall,” Harris said. “They’re not required to have it. Land development code classifies this type of use as a separately regulated institutional use.”

Harris said the city can take enforcement action against excess noise from the facility, unless it is “associated merely with the conduct of an otherwise permitted business and does not exceed the (established) incidental noise regulations.”

Tom Mitchell, a communications director with the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, said city municipal code does not provide a definition of either “convalescent homes” or “assisted living facilities.”

“It describes, but does not define, ‘residential care facilities,’  … (as) a type of land use that falls under the residential category. … ‘Hospitals, intermediate care facilities and nursing facilities’ is another category, and those uses are considered institutional land uses.”

Mitchell said San Diego Municipal Code allows the City Manager to make per-case use determinations for such facilities.

   
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