La Jolla overlooks inventory list raises concerns: Nearby residents worry about proposed ‘improvements’

This coastal overlook on Cortez Place is one of the many identified in an inventory list that has some nearby residents concerned with any ‘improvement’ plans.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

An inventory created to document the conditions of beach accesses and coastal overlooks is causing some heartburn among residents who live nearby. Discussed at the April 22 La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group meeting at the Rec Center, the inventory was created by volunteers Melinda Merryweather and Mary Lynn Hyde over the last few months. The two have been visiting overlooks from Tourmaline Beach to La Jolla Farms, documenting their condition, suggesting needs and inventorying their findings.

But not everyone who lives adjacent these overlooks was notified about the inventory or the process used to create it.

At the meeting, Coast Walk resident Brenda Fake said: “This board had two people go out, take pictures and create this list. How were the residents that would be highly impacted by this assessment informed? Were they engaged in the process? My fear is, should this be adopted, there is now a list to move things forward made without the community in any say-so.”

She argued that some of the issues identified in the inventory might be resolved by talking to the neighbors and allowing them to make needed repairs or carry out the maintenance themselves.

“Engaging the community is an opportunity and a chance to open this up and make changes,” Fake added. “Just knock on people’s doors and let them know what you’re doing so people are in the know. Because people don’t find out about these things until later on, they go on the defensive.”

LJP&B trustee Jane Reldan supported the idea of “contacting the neighbors of these areas and getting their input rather than surprising them.”

Fellow trustee Judy Adams Halter suggested that it might be wise to draft a letter to leave for those that are not home.

A further issue of concern was using the word “dedicated” when the inventory was presented to the board last month for its blessing. In the inventory, some of the accesses are labeled as “dedicated,” which, if true, would carry certain responsibilities and regulations.

The La Jolla Community Plan and Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan (often referred to as the Community Plan) does not have a clear definition of what that means, but one reference states: “Dedicated access easements are not required to be opened for public use unless the City or some other entity agrees to accept responsibility for maintenance and liability of that access way.” Another reference states dedicated open space lands are “protected in perpetuity from development.”

According to La Jolla Parks & Beaches chair Ann Dynes’ information from the Department of Park & Rec, a dedicated park cannot cease to be a park without a two-thirds vote of all of San Diego voters.

“It’s a loaded word,” she said. “I got a lot of questions about what the word ‘dedicated’ means. I went to the Municipal Code and then spent several hours with the 2014 La Jolla Community Plan to see where the wording is used.”

Dynes said she found that while the word is used in the Community Plan, the uses are inconsistent. “In a few ways, the community plan is wrong,” she said. “For example, it indicates that Whale View Point is dedicated park, which it is not, it is a shoreline park, which is a completely different animal in the parlance of the City.”

Noting another example, Dynes said the Community Plan and inventory labels Bandera Street as “unimproved portion of dedicated street off of Calumet Avenue,” but according to San Diego records, it is a “dedicated path.” She added: “Some of these expressions vary from document to document.”

In the inventory, Dynes concluded, “the wording has been faithfully taken from the La Jolla Community Plan.”

Merryweather said she worked on the most recent revision of the community plan. “A six-hour meeting was nothing in the Community Plan process. Every word and every dot was argued on every issue. We went over it again and again. So if the Community Plan says it is dedicated, it is dedicated. … The Community Plan is our bible for doing everything we do and we took the words right out of our Community Plan.”

Dynes said she wanted to spend more time reviewing the documents before voting to adopt the inventory or post it on their website, so it will continue to be discussed at future meetings.

The inventory itself is not considered final, Merryweather noted to La Jolla Light, and would undergo additional review before any formal vote is taken.

The inventory includes eight sub-areas: La Jolla Farms, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla Shores, Coast Walk, Coast Boulevard (including Children’s Pool), Windansea, La Jolla Hermosa (including several overlooks off Camino de la Costa) and Bird Rock. The latter contains most of the overlooks to be improved.

For areas such as La Jolla Farms, the inventory suggests removing red curbs on certain streets to create more beach-access parking.

Other suggestions are more extensive. For Moss Lane, for example these include replacing the rusted railing, removing all existing vegetation on the south side of concrete walkway (only the tall palm trees should remain), removing the bougainvillea on north side of the walkway, removing “illegal” drip irrigation in the right-of-way, removing tall sprinkler heads that are “activated when property owner wishes to discourage use,” addressing water intrusion issue from adjacent property owner on south side “as runoff creates a soggy mess and contributes to bluff erosion,” and adding a trash can and regular trash pick-up service.

Those who wish to review the inventory or participate in discussions are encouraged to attend the next La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting: 4 p.m. Monday, May 20 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

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