VICIOUS CIRCLES: Hit-and-runs, weather continue pummeling Bird Rock roundabouts in La Jolla

Only a day before the Feb. 5 Bird Rock Community Council (BRCC) meeting, a vehicle struck and toppled an Arbutus Marina tree with a six-inch trunk at the northeast corner of La Jolla Boulevard and Camino de la Costa. It also knocked over the pedestrian crossing sign pole, damaged the landscaping and irrigation systems and hit a retaining wall, killing several ficus tree shrubs.

“Unfortunately, it was a hit-and-run occurrence, as are most of the problems that we face,” said BRCC secretary Barbara Dunbar. “Very, very few are witnessed accidents with a filed police report.”

Therefore, the BRCC must pay for repairs itself, out of its emergency Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) budget.

“We do recover damages when there are police reports and we have somebody to go after,” Dunbar said. “It takes sometimes a year or two years to get everything done, but unfortunately, a lot of the accidents are hit-and-run.”

The roundabouts — opened in 2008 following five years of community involvement in design workshops and public meetings — were designed to slow traffic on La Jolla Boulevard so pedestrians can safely cross. And they do slow it. Most of it.

About once a week, however, irresponsible late-night drivers ignore the traffic-calming devices and speed right through the roundabouts instead of circling through them.

“It is one of the reasons why we routinely monitor and patrol and inspect the Bird Rock MAD areas on a daily basis,” Dunbar said. “We are looking for problems which might have happened overnight. The irrigation damage is often not immediately obvious.”

In the past month, Dunbar reported, “a whole lot of street signs” were knocked down, mostly along La Jolla Mesa Drive, including the no-pedestrian-crossing sign at the southwest corner of Colima Street that Dunbar described as being “back up again for at least two weeks, which is a record.”

Lake Forward

Forward Street was totally flooded during the recent rains due to its ongoing drainage issue. In a couple of places, Dunbar said, the road was underwater almost two feet.

The Forward Street roundabout is shown during a recent rainstorm.

“The City engineering people have been looking at it, the City Storm Water Department continues to analyze the lack of drainage, and we’re hoping that something gets done,” Dunbar said. “This has been a problem predating the roundabouts. It didn’t get solved at that time, but it looks like we’re slowly inching towards a solution.”

Dunbar added that the La Jolla Community Planning Association voted to recommend a fix for this problem in the District 1 budget for the next fiscal year.

“We’re hopeful there will be some sort of solution,” Dunbar said, suddenly laughing before completing her sentence, “in the next decade!” (She quickly corrected that statement to “year.”)


District 1 Council member Barbara Bry shared some news about negotiations she recently held with Airbnb and HomeAway on the future of short-term vacation rentals (STVR).

Barbara Bry addresses the Feb. 5 Bird Rock Community Council meeting at Bird Rock Elementary School.

“What they would like us to do is have a policy where we set a percentage of housing stock that could be allowed to be used as short-term rentals,” Bry said. “We have about 520,000 housing units in the City of San Diego, and they’re opening negotiation with me was 2 percent of housing stock — that’s over 10,000 units — plus Mission Beach, which has about 2,200.”

Bry reported that she walked away, explaining: “It’s a non-starter for me.”

Bry was asked what would prevent Airbnb from successfully challenging any future short-term vacation rental (STVR) regulations passed by City Council — as they did last year — by gaining enough signatures to threaten an expensive public vote.

“Yes, there is a danger they will collect signatures a second time,” Bry replied. “So we’re trying to get some guidance from the Coastal Commission as to what they will accept. We think they’re OK with a three-night minimum stay in the coastal areas. They seem to be OK with primary residences.”

This discussion took place during a Q&A session following an abbreviated version Bry delivered of her Jan. 30 State of the District address.

Also at BRCC…

  • Assessment lowered: Dunbar reported that the final proposed budget was amended to increase the amount allocated for emergency costs (including repairs caused by accidents and weather). However, as a result of a healthy reserve balance and lower expenditures for the current fiscal year, Dunbar reported, the 2020 assessment rate for single-family residences will be reduced by $5, to $90. Condo owners will pay $63 a year, and commercial-property owners about $405 (depending on how many equivalent benefit units are assigned to the property.).
  • Slurry not hurried: Following numerous complaints about the May 2018 repaving of La Jolla Boulevard, the City has acknowledged that the type of slurry seal used was not suitable for roundabouts. The contractor was supposed to repair the roundabouts in the first week of November and didn’t. An email from the City received by District 1 Council member representative Mauricio Medina explained that rain and temperatures below 50 degrees prevented the work from being started, and that it would be scheduled as soon as the temperature rises.
  • And finally: Architect Trace Wilson spoke about amassing a group to create discussions that could possibly lead to charrettes that would determine the shape of Bird Rock’s future. And the BRCC’s bi-annual Bird Rock Cleanup was announced for April 22 (Earth Day).

— BRCC next meets 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 5 at the La Jolla Masonic Lodge, 5655 La Jolla Blvd.