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People in Your Neighborhood: Meet Ann Dynes; working to improve La Jolla’s parks and beaches

Ann Dynes is the 2020 president of La Jolla Parks & Beaches.
(Photo by Corey Levitan)

PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD:

La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! If you know someone you’d like us to profile, call us at (858) 875-5950 or send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com

It’s not just because she’s the president of La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) that Ann Parode Dynes has a unique perspective on La Jolla’s parks and beaches. From the balcony of the condo she shares with her husband (former University of California president and UC San Diego chancellor Bob Dynes) she overlooks the park and the beach at Whale View Point.

It’s a special area to Dynes, 73, who spearheaded the project that got a new sidewalk installed there in 2017. It’s also a perfect vantage point for Dynes to monitor the changes in crowd size since the Sunday, March 22 closure of all San Diego parks and beaches by the police to all gatherings of any size. La Jolla Light spoke to Dynes the day it went into effect.

Who do you see when you look out at Whale View Point right now?

“I see a garbage truck picking up garbage. I don’t see a single person walking up the coast. No bicycles, a couple of cars.”

Did you ever think you would see La Jolla so empty?

“None of us ever expected something like this. I feel lucky that sheltering in place is here.”

Do you think closing the parks and beaches was justified?

“I hate to say it for selfish reasons, but probably. When the shelter-in-place mandate was initially promulgated, the area was abandoned except for the regular presence of surfers. But with last week’s lovely weather, there have been a lot of people here. Bob and I and our friends are active outdoor people, so we have been out there with them. But the sheer number of people recreating along the coastline was beginning to seem antithetical to the objective of human separation. I am afraid that we need to temper support for getting outside with something more aligned with public safety.

Two days ago, Bob and I walked through the supposedly closed Rec Center on the way to CVS. The significant number of people at all of these places, many young people and families engaged in active sports, was concerning. People were using the locked tennis courts at the Rec Center as well as its basketball courts and play fields, young people were playing volleyball and paddle ball at the beaches, little kids were racing around, and folks were generally behaving as if there was nothing to worry about. I am no expert on this, but suspect that we needed tighter rules because there are too many of us out there acting like the world is normal.”

How are you using your extra indoor time?

“I like to cook. Last Friday, I made Coq au Vin, which takes all day to cook. Bob and I just have to hope that we do not gain too much weight and that all of this togetherness does not damage our marriage! Ha! Just kidding!”

How did you get involved with La Jolla Parks & Beaches?

“I was attending meetings as a member of the public and was in the audience for a meeting in 2015 when a plan from the La Jolla Conservancy was presented. I raised my hand to volunteer to implement it and shortly thereafter I filled a vacancy on the board. I ended up being president by default. It is a lot of work!”

What’s the organization’s mission?

“The primary mission is to advise the City Parks & Rec Department on the resources of our parks and beaches here. Every year, we send the City a list of our requests for capital and maintenance improvements, and every year, they actually do a lot of it. Just this year, they’ve already repaired several benches that we asked to be repaired. Last year, they responded to our request to install bicycle racks in The Village. We raised the money to purchase the racks and the City’s Transportation Department installed them. Of course, the Scripps Park restroom project and the Children’s Pool Plaza emanated from our work, so we’re sort of a catalyst to keeping the parks and beaches as spiffy as they can be.”

There are some disagreements on your board. Which subject has been the most controversial?

“We have a contingent of long time members who basically wish that La Jolla could stay the way it was 40 years ago. And I don’t blame them for that sentiment, but it runs into conflict with increasing use of our parks and beaches and demand for events, and so there’s some contention there. But that’s not a bad thing. At our last meeting, we had a motion to stop recommending all new events at Scripps Park, and it failed, but it was a robust conversation.”

What is your favorite park in the world?

“Probably the one I’m looking at — Whale View Point. Yesterday, Bob and I went out and pulled weeds there. It was a beautiful afternoon. We just pulled enough weeds to keep them from stifling the new sea lavender and we found poppies. I had thrown some seeds down a couple of years ago and every so often one or two of the poppies re-bloom.”

What’s your favorite beach?

“Black’s is probably the coolest beach. I lived there for a long time. The privacy and the fact that it’s so flat and run-able is hard to beat. But I moved to this building in 2006 and I actually prefer being within walking distance of almost everything I want to do at this age.”

You’re an L.A. native. Why did you move to San Diego?

“I moved to San Diego fully expecting to move back to L.A. I just ended up getting job opportunities that kept me here. My friends and my family stayed there, and they ultimately concluded that I was clever for having moved south, because San Diego was a decade or two behind L.A. in terms of population growth, traffic and impacted quality of life. I don’t spend a lot of time in L.A. any more, but I think that that is still the case.”

You were an attorney by trade, but you don’t see a lot of attorneys picking weeds on public property.

“I graduated from college in the late ’60s, when the opportunities for women were pretty narrow. Women could be teachers or librarians or get married. So I had this idea that I would apply to law school. I attended UCLA, which I could afford at $100 a quarter, since I needed to put myself through. But law school was still pretty much out-of-the box for women at the time. When I graduated in 1971, there were about 12 women out of a class of 650 or so.

But to answer your question, if I were to pick what I was going to be today, I probably wouldn’t be a lawyer. The opportunities for less-structured, more-creative careers, or careers in the sciences, are open to women now, but they really weren’t then. Also, law has become money-dominated and I loved the practice for the many ways in which my training and aptitude could help other people succeed. Money was never my motivator.

So I became an attorney in private practice, then general counsel for a bank, and then I was the attorney for UCSD, which I did for 10 years and I retired from that in 2007. And the experience I had working in the public sector at UCSD was really useful in terms of my understanding how to participate in an organization like La Jolla Parks & Beaches, where we work with the City and public employees. At UCSD, I learned a lot about how to navigate a public bureaucracy as opposed to operating in the private sector. It is an art form, but really fun if mastered, because public employees want to help if asked in the right way.”

You also used that experience to found the San Diego Parks Foundation. Why was that organization needed?

“Because I discovered that there was no good way for people to financially support parks in greater San Diego. We’re a non-profit here in La Jolla, where affluent people have helped us do all kinds of cool things. But it turns out there’s nothing comparable to that in especially the older parts of San Diego. In September 2018, I asked the head of the Parks & Rec Department, Herman Parker, why San Diego didn’t have a parks foundation when every major city had one. And Herman said, ‘We’ve thought about it. We didn’t know quite how to go about it.’ And I decided to put together a team and do it for them.

In our first year, we raised $170,000, part of which was through the City of San Diego holding the first annual Undertow Classic at the Torrey Pines North Golf Course. We’ve run this event twice now, and philanthropic golfers pay fees more than normal and the extra money goes into helping parks. They are thrilled to support needy parks. I also have hit up all of my friends to be founding donors at $1,000 and they have been wonderful.”

Do you see any good coming out of this coronavirus pandemic?

“This black swan should be a sobering wake-up call as to the fragility of life and property ... and how interwoven we have become. Most of the world has been on an extended stretch of increasing prosperity for over 70 years, but the fact that forces out of anyone’s control can completely derail everyone at probably every level of society is sobering. Maybe the lesson is to not take our lucky lives for granted.”