Our Readers Write: Who controls the future of La Jolla’s neighborhoods?; Unlikely piano man; Rotary swimming for scholarships

Our Readers Write / Opinion / Letters to the Editor:

Letters to the Editor from the Oct. 18, 2018 issue of La Jolla Light as La Jollans speak out on local issues:

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Unlikely piano man ...

While sitting with friends at Brick and Bell Cafe, enjoying a tea and discussing the world events, a man sat down on a bench in front of one of the many pianos installed in The Village. He began to play a classical piece of music beautifully. He was dressed in rags and plastic bags right down to his shoes, but for just a moment, he changed our mood and brought us all together.

Christine Holmes

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La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club swimming for scholarships

Over the past 11 years, members of the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club have provided $104,000 in scholarships for disadvantaged students of the San Pasqual Academy in Escondido, and the first and only residential education center for foster youth in the country. The club's annual open-water Litchfield Memorial Swim is responsible for a major portion of that support, coupled with generous donations from a Sunrise Club Rotary member through the Jones Family Foundation.

This swim event, which took place in September, honors Robert Litchfield, a former teacher at La Jolla High School whose life was cut short by cancer. A dedicated humanitarian who gave generously of his time and talents, Robert's inspirational teaching and compassion inspired thousands of students to become caring, considerate and contributing members of society.

Since the first Litchfield Memorial Swim in 2002, about 35 swimmers annually complete the one-mile event from La Jolla Cove to the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. Proceeds for San Pasqual Academy come from registration fees and additional donations. The Academy is an accredited high school offering a computer for each student, a cafeteria, a technology and career information center, an assembly hall, recreation fields, and a swimming pool. These campus resources along with dedicated teachers and volunteers work together to provide a surrogate family environment.

In addition to scholarships, the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club has also provided an additional $18,000 for Christmas gifts for the students. Rotarians have also offered time and hands-on help on site to meet other priority needs of the Academy.

La Jolla Sunrise Rotary has been able to increase amounts given for student scholarships every year to the point where all graduating students receive scholarships to help further their education beyond high school. Dedicated Academy staff continue to stay in contact with graduates, many of whom attend universities and colleges and return to relate their experiences and offer inspiration and encouragement about college and career opportunities that lie ahead for the current students.

Debby Syverson from San Pasqual Academy attends the swim to acknowledge the donation and report on progress of the students receiving these scholarships. Many Academy students are the first in their families to graduate from high school.

For the swimmers, the rewards upon emerging from the water include cheers from onlookers, a plush towel, a Litchfield Swim T-shirt and a hearty breakfast during a special Rotary program that follows the swim. Robert's widow, Paula, is a regular participant in the swim that honors his name.

The La Jolla Sunrise Rotary is actively recruiting members and meets Thursdays at 6:58 a.m. at the La Jolla Shores Hotel. For more information, e-mail KLattin1@gmail.com

Steve Cross; Secretary, La Jolla Sunrise Rotary

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Guest Commentary: Who controls the future of La Jolla's neighborhoods?

Many citizens throughout La Jolla share the frustration expressed by Gordy Dunfee (as expressed in his letter "Who approves monstrous rebuilds?" in the Oct. 4 issue of La Jolla Light).

There doesn't seem to be a meeting that goes by of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) where neighbors aren't complaining about an egregious over-build being done by those who believe their property rights supersede that of their neighbors, have no appreciation of the character of the neighborhood and are only interested in lining their pockets or stretching their ego.

Many times the LJCPA, after dutiful investigation and discussion, transmit its objections to the City Development Services Department (DSD), Council President Pro-Tem Barbara Bry and other appropriate officials. Theirs, along with direct complaints from affected citizens, are at best given a short shrift reply - or are ignored entirely.

Case in point: In June 2018 the LJCPA sent a letter to the City Attorney (copied to the DSD Director) requesting an opinion on the so-called 50-percent rule. I sent a back-up letter to both parties, illustrating the abuses of this rule, Serial (Combination) Permitting and a conversion of a garage to a carport at 5670 Linda Rosa Avenue. These DSD-condoned abuses allowed the developer to maximize the size of the house. To date, neither the LJCPA nor I have received the courtesy of a reply from either the City Attorney or the Development Services Department. On Oct. 4, 2018, I emailed a second request to the new Director of DSD and have yet to receive a reply.

Briefly, the 50-percent Rule and Serial Permits were designed to help homeowners do small additions to their homes, while maintaining the original character and architecture.

Developers and speculators have hijacked these rules which, used together, allow them to dramatically increase the size of the "remodel" that ends up looking nothing like the original. They do not need to obtain a Coastal Development Permit, and they skirt Development Impact Fees that are used to improve and modernize the local infrastructure. Garage-to-carport conversions allow for an additional 400-plus square feet to be built because carports are not included in the Floor-Area Ratio. The result is substantially increased bulk and scale of new residential construction.

How is this infringement on the quality of life and character of our neighborhoods allowed to continue? Quite frankly, there is a deep state of political influence, retribution and organizational control that exists. This must be fleshed out before any meaningful changes can take place.

Development conflicts in San Diego are nothing new. The article "Geraniums vs. Smokestacks San Diego Mayoralty Campaign of 1917" by Uldis Ports (The Journal of San Diego History) covers the very dramatic philosophical differences in planning for the future development of San Diego.

Fast forward to April 2011, when San Diego's first strong mayor, Jerry Sanders , took a huge step in turning the process over to developers by abolishing the Planning Department and merging personnel with building permit processors. (A similar move took place under former City Manager Jack McGrory in the 1990s but was undone by his successor.)

"The consolidation will allow the staff of these two related departments to work more closely together and create efficiencies in management and information sharing," Sanders said in his announcement. "There's a natural overlap in the two departments on most of the issues we're dealing with, so I'm certain we'll see better functioning and service to the public with their integration." (San Diego Union-Tribune, April 22, 2011, online edition).

In Sanders' proposed 2011-12 budget, only 22 of the 561 employees would be dedicated to 'planning.' The rest were there to facilitate permits and serve the development industry.

This is a classic example of putting the cart before the horse. There is virtually no planning being done by the City. Community planning associations have been hung out to dry and community plans are ignored.

It is hard to find another function of the City which is more controlled by outside influence through political support and pressure. DSD is, as are all City departments, under the direct control of the Mayor.

Advising the Mayor on development issues including revisions to the building code are the Technical Advisory Committee and a sub-committee, the Code Monitoring Team. Members are appointed by the Mayor and are not subject to the Brown Act. They meet in small conference rooms within the labyrinth of City Hall and their membership is weighted heavily with those from the development, architectural and real-estate industry.

Certainly, expert opinion is important; however, it is clear these so-called advisory groups and others are extinguishing the voices from the communities.

In addition, another effort to stifle community input has been taken by the Mayor when he decreed that staff of our City Council member Barbara Bry (as publicly noted in community meetings) can no longer go directly to DSD or other City departments with community concerns. Rather, they must communicate through the Mayor's office. In the least, this adds another layer in the already inefficient communication networks between the City and the community. And frankly, sets up an autocratic control gate where community concerns can be stopped dead in their tracks if they challenge the Mayor's pro-developer agenda.

It's ironic that in the January 31, 2010 San Diego Union-Tribune article 'Should San Diego Keep Strong-Mayor System' then-Council member Kevin Faulconer said: "The new system (Strong Mayor) allows for more openness, transparency, and checks and balances."

As demonstrated above, for this Mayor, nothing could be further from the truth. Add to this, under the Strong-Mayor form of government, the Mayor does not sit on the City Council. Thus there is no public access to him. The public doesn't see how he would vote. Everything he does is done under the cloak of "administration."

We now know why members of his administration are lax to respond when the issue challenges his agenda. The fact that the issues causing the overbuilding are not receiving proper and forthright attention by City officials are a direct result of Mayor Faulconer's directives.

This is no coincidence. The question now becomes who controls the future of La Jolla's and San Diego's neighborhoods? Is it the people who live in them or those that don't?

David Ish

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What's on YOUR mind?

Letters published in La Jolla Light express views from readers in regard to community issues. To share your thoughts in this public forum, e-mail them with your name and city of residence to editor@lajollalight.com or mail them to La Jolla Light Editor, 565 Pearl St., Suite 300, La Jolla, CA 92037. Letters reflect the writers' opinions and not necessarily those of the newspaper staff or publisher.

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