A plaza for Marine Street? La Jollan submits plan for ‘memorial mall’ in Barber Tract area

A rendering from Eric Holtsmark’s proposal for a Marine Memorial Plaza

A La Jolla man has drafted and submitted conceptual plans to the City of San Diego and the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group to create a “Marine Memorial Mall” at the foot of Marine Street in the Barber Tract neighborhood. Plans include drawings for memorial benches, nautical-themed sculptures, light fixtures, water features, restrooms, ground vegetation and a new station for area lifeguards.

Marine Street currently ends at its namesake beach at a seawall, with a small staircase leading to the beach below. The curb is painted red on both sides, yet the area is used as a drop-off for people and beach equipment.

“I have been going there since 1945, when I came to this country (from Sweden), and have always thought it is a wasted piece of land, it could have better use,” plan creator and architect Erik Holtsmark told La Jolla Light. He said he envisions a plaza on the street with statues of Neptune (the god of the sea in Roman faith), mermaids and sea creatures; memorial benches in the shape of seashells; small linear ponds with waterfalls; murals and an outdoor elevator- or escalator-type mechanism to transport people to and from the beach. He also said he would like to add a post for lifeguards, who currently use an elevated chair on the beach; and a restroom facility that could be locked at night or left open.

Components that could be dedicated to loved ones, such as benches or sculptures, would be privately funded. Holtsmark said he estimates construction costs at $4.5 million, and has come up with a list of people willing to donate up to $5 million, “assuming the City would donate the land,” he said.

The end of Marine Street in its current state Ashley Mackin-Solomon

“The City would have to take over maintenance (once constructed), just like any other park. But there are also options to form a foundation to assist with maintenance costs,” he said.

Holtsmark, who lives in the Country Club area of La Jolla, said he has not met with those that live in the direct vicinity, but said based on his architectural renderings, there would not be any impacts to views.

The idea for this project came after Holtsmark wanted to pay for a memorial bench to honor a friend’s deceased husband in mid-2018. However, the City discontinued its memorial bench program, so Holtsmark was denied. From there, coupled with his longtime use of the area, he came up with the Memorial Mall concept.

“In view of the need of (1) parks, (2) opportunities for people to donate funds to commemorate friends, relatives or events, and (3) better lifeguards and emergency rescue facilities and restrooms, I have designed the Marine Memorial Mall … to fill these needs as well as establish a tribute to the evolution of terrestrial life emanating from the seas as well as the early explorers of our land,” he explained. “The reason I call it the Marine Memorial Mall is the fact that all living things on land came from the sea and that evolution is seldom part of any museum … and the motto I have chosen to accompany this project is ‘E Mari Sunt Omnia’ which (roughly) means ‘we all come from the sea’ in Latin.”

LJP&B chair Ann Dynes confirmed she had received the plans, and that LJP&B members would be meeting with Holtsmark in the month of January. Depending on the feedback and questions that arise, Holtsmark may present his proposal at a future LJP&B meeting in the coming months.

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