Parking Under the Rec Center? Proposal to build underground garage makes the rounds

To “green up” La Jolla’s Cultural Zone, provide more pedestrian access around La Jolla Rec Center, and take some cars off La Jolla’s streets, a proposal is making the rounds to create an underground parking structure beneath the La Jolla Rec Center.

The Cultural Zone includes La Jolla Rec Center, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Historical Society, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, The Cuvier Club, La Jolla Woman’s Club, and Bed & Breakfast Inn.

Spearheaded by La Jolla contractor Tom Grunow, the project was inspired by the similar initiative to remove cars from Balboa Park.

Without specific details, a preliminary presentation was offered by Grunow at the La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. board meeting Oct. 25. The board did not vote on the idea, but early feedback from board members was positive.

Grunow told the board he was motivated by Ellen Browning Scripps and her quest to promote more vegetation in La Jolla.

“I’ve seen the trees be taken out and I’ve seen trees die. I question what Ms. Scripps would think of our stewardship of The Cultural Zone. During a recent walk, all I saw were cars and hardscape,” he said.

“I want to take some of the parking off the street … but in looking at upcoming projects, such as The Conrad (Performing Arts Center), there is going to be a huge need for more parking.”

As a solution, Grunow said he would like to construct an approximately 100-space, one-level, underground garage with an ingress on Cuvier Street and egress to Draper Avenue, and remove some on-street parking.

“In traveling around the country, I’ve seen parking garages that do not feel like garages. They have high ceilings, epoxy floors and good security.”

He added that intuitions in La Jolla already have a system in place where they buy parking spaces in existing garages for their patrons and employees, and a similar opportunity could be here.

Grunow said no other details like costs, construction dates or the revenue collecting system, are available, but right now, the outstanding task is to meet with those who might be impacted by the project and see where they stand.

“If early feedback suggests this is a good idea, I’ll keep going, but if people don’t like it, I’ll stop,” he said, adding the majority of those he has spoken to are in favor. Early supporters reportedly include Enhance La Jolla chair Bill Tribolet, La Jolla Historical Society executive director Heath Fox, architect Jim Alcorn, board members at La Jolla Woman’s Club, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego director Kathryn Kanjo, LJPR acting president Mary Coakley Munk and La Jolla Parks & Beaches chair Ann Dynes.

Grunow will continue to meet with private stakeholders before offering larger presentations. He also said he would create a “master plan” and host a design charrette at a date and time to be announced.

“I recognize this is a big project, but I think with the right key players, it can be done,” Grunow said.

Ready to join in with support, LJPR trustees offered positive comments. Member Jill Peters said, “I love adding more trees to make it a true Cultural Zone. I’m thrilled (by this idea).” Bill Robbins said, “It’s a wonderful idea.”

Before casting a formal vote, and in light of the LJPR playground renovation project, Coakley Munk said she would like Grunow to return soon with more information. The underground parking project would need to happen before the board could proceed with any renovations.

“It’s important to us that we don’t wait two years to get our (playground renovation) project started,” she said, “On the other hand, if it is going to be a few years before this gets started, that could change our process for the playground.”

— LJP&R, Inc. next meets at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

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