La Jolla Planners OK parking, not stanchions, at Playa del Norte


At the conclusion of a controversial six-month pilot program to reconfigure parking to deter nuisance activities at the foot of Playa Del Norte in WindanSea, the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJPCA) took up the issue during its Sept. 6 meeting at the Rec Center.

After hearing passionate pleas from both the pro- and anti-stanchion sides, the board voted 13-2-1 to make the temporary configuration permanent to preserve views and open up parking in the area.

The pilot program was launched by District 1 City Council Member Barbara Bry as a way to curb illegal parking and disruptions to the neighborhood, while preserving the view treasured by surfers.

The new Playa Del Norte plan will include two, 15-minute spaces (valid 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.) with no parking allowed otherwise.

Prior to the limited parking, the City installed stanchions to keep people from parking in the red-curbed area. However, those who check surf conditions from there, advocated for the stanchions being removed. In March, the City opted to take out the stanchions and test limited parking for six months.

Last week’s meeting saw residents arguing for stanchions plan, and surfers arguing for the in-place parking plan. San Diego Police Department Northern Division acting captain Kevin Mayer opened in favor of the stanchions.

“Despite our efforts, public safety issues continue to be a problem there, based on the information we’re getting,” he said. “My biggest concern is people being tempted to, as they are driving along Neptune Place, turn illegally (up the wrong way on the one-way street) and take one of those two spaces. That is the temptation, and at some point we are going to have a collision. We’re giving all the resources we can to that area, but in reality, I just don’t have enough officers to solve this permanently.”

Joseph Hayes, president of the HOA of the condominium complex closest to the intersection, added that the residents have reported 4,907 violations — the most serious of which is wrong-way driving — and multiple incidences in which more than two cars were using those spaces. His records were from April 18 to Aug. 31 and documented via a security camera.

“A lot of people have expressed concern about the view in this corridor, but when you have cars blocking the intersection, I don’t think there is much of a view. It’s a step in the wrong direction,” Hayes argued.

Conversely, Friends of WindanSea member Melinda Merryweather presented a petition she circulated that bore 234 signatures for keeping the parking configuration.

In his presentation supporting the parking spaces, LJCPA trustee Patrick Ahern explained that the area is in a dedicated public vantage point and a public view corridor.

“The group in support of this believes this is a reasonable compromise; people have time to sit and watch the surf sets (which takes 15-20 minutes) or someone could park, drop off their beach gear and go find a longer parking space. It protects this public vantage point,” he argued.

LJCPA trustee vice president Helen Boyden announced there was additional correspondence in support of the parking spaces, including a letter from the SurfRider Foundation, the WindanSea Surf Club, and personal notes from those who live nearby.

Trustees continued to debate the issue for 20 minutes and while they largely supported the configuration, they also offered alternative design solutions such as curbing, painted arrows on the street, and spike strips to deter wrong-way driving.

Trustee Phil Merten noted: “This is in the beach impact parking overlay zone, and the City discourages anything that limits parking in a beach impact overlay zone. I was troubled when the two-space solution came up because I think there’s room for more there.”

Trustee Brian Will added: “There are folks at the City who are far better equipped to address safety than we are, but we are the experts on our community plan and our community character. Watching the surf and surfing at WindanSea are part of our history and part of our character.”

All said, trustee Glen Rasmussen moved the successful motion to make the spaces (as they now exist) permanent, and consider additional design solutions going forward.

In other LJCPA news

Gateway project approved: Despite outcry from residents about a project dubbed “The Gateway to Bird Rock,” LJCPA heard and ratified the decision that findings could be made to support the project at 5785 La Jolla Blvd. (at Camino de la Costa, the northernmost entry to Bird Rock).

The project calls for the demolition of an existing single-story, mixed-use building for the development of a new two-story, 7,556-square-foot mixed-use building divided between four retail spaces on the ground floor, and residential apartments above each.

“It’s an unusual site because there’s nothing to the south of it, so it’s very public on three sides. When we designed the building elevations, we did so for three sides,” explained David Keitel, a principal at DomusStudio Architecture. “We wanted to do something nice.”

But some argued the architecture would be too different from other developments in the area, and did not supply sufficient parking.

In the parking lot, there would be one space for each of the four retail units, and four two-car garages for the residents, which some said would be used for storage rather than parking, so those who lived there would park on the street.

“That’s eight more cars that are going to be parked on our street and in front of our homes,” charged resident Philomene Offen. “Already, the difficulties of delivery trucks and mail services — and even guests parking in front of our homes or anywhere near our homes these days — is huge, and this project will make it exponentially worse.”

City code requires three parking spaces, but four would be provided. However, many noted that one of those four spaces is for ADA access.

When pressed about the parking, Keitel said: “We spent so much time on this, trying to get as much parking as possible, and every square inch of the site is used. We’re providing what we can where we can. Underground parking and trying to get a ramp down that far becomes very inefficient.”

As for the garages, he added: “The retail spaces have to be open and not gated or anything, so the garage provides security for the apartment residents.”

Trustee Brian Will applauded the applicant, saying: “Bird Rock is one of the most unique neighborhoods in La Jolla. (It is) a walkable community with destinations all the residents can enjoy. I will vote over and over again in favor of increasing vitality and walkability in the urban districts of La Jolla. This project is exactly what this community needs and is removing one of the last vestiges of the dead corridor that La Jolla Boulevard used to be.”

A motion to support the project and ratify the findings passed 14-1-1.

Board backs Bry on road night work: As the more than 50,000 drivers who traverse Torrey Pines Road daily ready for the construction slated to start any day now as part of the Torrey Pines Road Slope Restoration Project, LJCPA unanimously voted to support City Council member Bry in her request to have work done at night.

In late August, Bry wrote in a memo to City staff: “Over the past several weeks, my office has heard from residents, visitors and businesses who’ve expressed their concerns regarding the traffic on Torrey Pines Road during the normal working hours of construction for the Torrey Pines Slope Restoration Project. As construction to complete this project is set to commence, I ask that all measures be taken to minimize the disruption of traffic during the day by shifting construction hours to night time. Furthermore, should night work be undertaken, I request that all accommodations be made to ensure that disruption (especially noise) to the surrounding area be minimized.”

The slope restoration project is part of the Torrey Pines Road Corridor project, which started earlier this year, but paused for the summer.

In discussing the various issues that arose during the first part of construction, Everett Stunz owner Phil Coller reiterated his concern over the potential loss of business due to traffic, should work proceed during the day.

“I started getting complaints from people coming into the store who said they would never come to La Jolla again. … In monitoring the effects (of traffic) and customers who came in, I lost 40 percent of my sales between the end of February and June,” he said.

Further, it was reported those who want to bypass Torrey Pines Road took other streets as detours causing a spillover effect into surrounding neighborhoods.

The board largely supported the night work notion, save for trustee Dan Courtney, who previously had night work performed in front of his house and reported he had to briefly move away from the area to get some rest.

“It was terrible, the back-up beeps on trucks have to be loud enough to be heard — that alone keeps you up all night — then you have the lights and the workers. It’s impossible to sleep. It’s just a temporary inconvenience to have all these cars backed up,” he said.

But as the trustee comments in favor of night work mounted (citing the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few), Courtney left the meeting. Thus, when the vote came, it was unanimous.

In the days following the vote, City spokesperson Alec Phillipp told the Light: “City staff has been in contact with the contractor to determine the feasibility of switching the remaining day work to night work. The request is still under review.”

— La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.