State of La Jolla Rec Center tree troubles advisory board: Shade structure delays compound frustrations

The tree fronting the La Jolla Rec Center, which was planted during its centennial in 2015, has been leaning and growing at an angle.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The mysterious white, powdery mildew that has appeared on the needles of the large pine tree fronting the La Jolla Rec Center seems to be the last straw for members of the La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. board (which, going forward, will be known as the La Jolla Rec Center Advisory Board).

Leaning since it was planted in 2015, the pine tree is now reportedly dying.

The board lamented the tree’s condition during its July 25 meeting at the Rec Center, and blamed it on a lack of attention from the City. New area manager Rosalia Castruita was in attendance, but since she just took the position a few months ago, she had no information about the situation, but got an earful.

Board chair Mary Coakley Munk said the tree has been an issue “for months” and concerns with it have been brought up “since the day it was planted.”

Board member Bill Robbins explained: “The tree has been leaning and growing that way for a while, and when this first came up, we asked the City to tie a rope around it to straighten it, but now it’s dying. When it was first planted, I hand-watered the tree and I’m sick of nothing happening with it. The tree was paid for through special funds under (former District 1 City Council member) Sherri Lightner in honor of the La Jolla Rec Center’s centennial in 2015.”

Coakley Munk added: “There has been no care for it and it needs to be replaced. We need a tree that gives respect to the park. We’re not interested in seeing the tree continue to grow this way.”

Castruita, who replaces former area manager Tyler Canales, said she was unaware of the tree issue, but agreed to speak with a City arborist and report back to the board, either by e-mail or in person at the next meeting. She noted that the City arborist, originally handling the tree’s care, retired and she did not know what, if any progress, was made with a new arborist in terms of replacing the tree or whether they were aware of the white substance that has appeared.

“We as a Rec Council have put thousands of dollars into this facility and it’s embarrassing when we have people come to this center and it looks like crap,” Coakley Munk said.

Robbins added: “That tree has become a symbol of our relationship with the City.”

Re-striping b-ball courts

To better repair the basketball courts on the grounds, which are currently “repaired” by way of cold-patching the deep cracks, Castruita said the La Jolla courts would be resurfaced this fall. There is currently an electrical replacement project underway at the Rec Center, and once it’s finished, the court resurfacing project will begin.

In the course of resurfacing, the basketball court lines will be redrawn and lines for pickle-ball will also be drawn, so the court could be used for both games. However, Castruita said she was unaware of whether the courts would be replaced down to their foundation or whether the top layer would just be replaced.

Shade saga soars

Just as board members thought the long-sought shade structure installation over the playground area was in arm’s reach, news broke that the project might be further out than they realized. For the past year, the board has been pursuing the installation of shade structures, and exploring different options before deciding on a shade sail system. Members collected cost quotes and found a contractor to carry out the installation.

Most recently, San Diego Park & Rec District Manager Marilyn Stern (who was not at the July meeting) said at public meetings that it would be simpler to have the City install the shade structure system rather than doing so privately, and the City could install the shades as early as August or September.

Stern also said if the board were to transfer the money to the City and have its crews complete the installation, a right-of-entry permit would not be required, thereby shortening the process. However, she later “corrected” herself at a private meeting and explained that route was not accurate. A right-of-entry permit would be required regardless of who completes the installation, and the permit takes weeks, if not months, to obtain. The City has not yet applied for the permit.

Further, the board was told it would need to install poles in the ground to hold the shade structures, making the effort a Capital Improvement Project that needs to be approved by City engineers, which would add an undisclosed amount to the cost. Coakley Munk suggested that cost would likely double the original estimate.

Before committing to the project on the City’s terms, board members requested an estimate that includes all the City’s costs. Members agreed to revisit the issue at a future meeting.

Parks Master Plan partnership

The City is creating its first overarching Parks Master Plan since 1956, and is currently in the “listening phase” to gather ideas and input. The Plan has been described by City officials as a new road map for how it will manage parks and infrastructure for the next 50 years.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group chair Ann Dynes (standing) suggests a partnership with the La Jolla Rec Center Advisory Board when it comes to the City’s Parks Master Plan update. Ashley Mackin-Solomon

Seeking a one-voice partnership between the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group and the La Jolla Rec Center Advisory Board, LJP&B board chair Ann Dynes spoke about the City’s Master Plan, and offered a list of suggestions for review. Dynes explained that LJP&B had created a working group and compiled a “brain dump” of ideas, and she asked the Rec Center Advisory Board to consider working together so La Jolla would have a unified voice.

“The City is not only looking for visionary ideas about what parks should look like going forward, but for our community, we wanted to communicate what we thought parks should look like locally. We know your mission is a little more circumscribed than ours is, but both our missions support the public’s use of spaces, like parks,” Dynes said.

The La Jolla Rec Center Advisory Board agreed to address this partnership at a future meeting. Anyone who wishes to provide input on the City’s Master Plan, may visit

La Jolla Rec Center Advisory Board does not meet in August. The next meeting is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.