NOT JOLLY ABOUT TROLLEY: La Jolla Town Council transportation forum evokes complaints

District 4 County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher — flanked by La Jolla Village Merchants Association president Brett Murphy and La Jolla Town Council president Ann Kerr Bache — attempts to rally La Jollans behind the Mid-Coast Trolley.

During a public forum on future transportation options at the May 9 La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) meeting, deep frustration was expressed with the lack of any dedicated shuttle service planned from The Village to the San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) Mid-Coast Trolley. Scheduled to open in Fall 2021, its nearest stops with dedicated parking garages will be either at La Jolla Village Square Mall (4.3 miles from Vons, 7544 Girard Ave.) or at Balboa Avenue near Morena Boulevard (5.8 miles from Vons).

“It’s in the La Jolla Community Plan, it’s in the Coastal Plan,” said panelist and La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board (LJT&T) chair Dave Abrams. “There just doesn’t seem to be any money for it, and we think we’re being ignored.”

echoed panelist and LJT&T trolley committee chair Dan Allen: “We’re spending billions on this trolley, billions, and it’s going to zoom right past La Jolla without much benefit to us.”

Following the forum, LJTC president Ann Kerr Bache floated a motion to ask the City for additional funding for a shuttle, which the LJTC passed unanimously.

“It’s very clear with the current plan, there’s no way we can match La Jolla residents and businesses effectively with the trolley without additional resources,” the motion said in part.

Also on the panel was District 4 County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, so Kerr Bache asked him if the County could help provide those resources.

“No, the County of San Diego doesn’t pay for transit,” Fletcher replied. “This is what MTS (Metropolitan Transit System) does, this is what San Diego does, this is what SANDAG does, this is what the State of California does. I think, between those entities and jurisdictions, if we can find a few billion dollars to build a trolley line, it seems like we can find the money to have a shuttle to connect people to transportation centers.”

Fletcher said that MTS, on whose board he sits, is “looking at a lot of things as we move forward about how we connect these things in a system that actually works.”

Fletcher then gave a 12-minute speech about the philosophy behind the trolley, as if to rally demoralized troops. He said that California is now far off its 2030 climate goals, and getting farther off track.

“We are increasing our greenhouse gas emissions as a state, almost exclusively due to the fact that we are massively increasing our vehicle miles traveled,” he said. “In San Diego, we’ve added a billion vehicle miles traveled in the last decade.”

In addition, due to lower-income housing’s proximity to air pollution from the freeways where these miles are traveled, Fletcher said, a child born today in Barrio Logan is eight times more likely to have asthma than a child born in La Jolla.

“And that’s wrong,” he said. “That’s morally wrong. We have to fundamentally rethink what we’re doing.”

Fletcher said a transit-only ballot issue is being prepared for San Diegans to vote on in 2020.

“As a region, are we going to live in the past or are we going to move forward into a better future?” Fletcher asked. “And change is always hard, because you’re disrupting the way things have always been done. But when I look at the issues surrounding transportation, I don’t think we have a choice. We have to change.”

Most people in the audience, and on the panel, applauded the speech.

SANDAG is building its Nobel dEIVE trolley station and parking garage on land it seized from the La Jolla Village Square shopping mall parking lot in an ongoing eminent-domain lawsuit.

Sandbagged by SANDAG?

Also during the forum, SANDAG regional planner Marisa Mangan was placed in the hot seat by audience member and La Jolla resident Will Cooper, who asked repeatedly about how SANDAG plans to deal with the increased traffic caused by the 600-space parking garage and Nobel Drive trolley stop that it’s currently building on a portion of La Jolla Village Square’s parking lot.

“The access into that area is very bad already, and it’s just going to be a complete disaster if nothing is done to properly deal with that,” Cooper said. “The fact that you’re building a 600-parking-spot location tells me that you’re planning to have a lot more vehicles in there. But that junction just isn’t big enough to handle the amount of traffic from people parking their cars for the trolley. There just is no way to get off of I-5 conveniently to park your car for the trolley.”

SANDAG filed an eminent-domain lawsuit in 2017 against the owner and tenants of the mall to be able to seize that particular construction area.

“Given the lawsuit, any kind of strategies we’ve been thinking about for the immediate station area, we’ve been very limited to just kind of the trolley platform and the structure,” Mangan said. “We’re going to be doing our very best to encourage folks to not drive there and not necessarily add to the congestion.”

In other Town Council news…

  • Height fright: Realtor and community volunteer James LaMattery gave a presentation, promoting his “Raise the Balloon” campaign, which claimed that proposed Senate Bill SB 330 eliminates the 30-foot height requirement legislated by the passage of Prop D in 1972. (It doesn’t. For more information, see related story, A1.) Kerr Bache interrupted the presentation, explaining that the subject would be addressed at a future meeting.
  • Zynda remembered fondly: Kerr Bache began the meeting by calling for a moment of silence for LJTC board member Lawrence J. Zynda, who passed away on April 9 at age 86. “I’m sure from some place, he’s watching and asking, ‘Do you have a copy of the agenda?’ ” Kerr Bache said.

    — La Jolla Town Council next meets 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.