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La Jolla Parks & Beaches board hears plan to renovate ‘scruffy’ Scripps Park picnic area

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An inside view of the Scripps Park picnic area that La Jollan Erik Holtsmark has been tasked with renovating
Ashley Mackin-Solomon

After a less-than-successful attempt at creating a Marine Memorial Mall at the foot of Marine Street, La Jolla resident and architect Erik Holtsmark returned to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group with plans for another seaside project — this time for Scripps Park.

The plan, he revealed through early renderings at the LJP&B March 25 meeting, is to redevelop the dusty picnic area in Scripps Park, remove the existing tables and trim the trees, and install new rounded cement tables and fixed stools. Because of his Marine Memorial Mall proposal, which involved the creation of sculptures, water features, seating and restroom facilities, Holtsmark’s name was at the top of the list to create a plan.

Though LJP&B disapproved the Marine Memorial Mall and the proposal was withdrawn, LJP&B chair Ann Dynes said she appreciated the effort behind it.

“I happened to be in Scripps Park about a month ago and looked at the area in the middle and there are four picnic tables there … and the area is a little scruffy,” Dynes said. “I had coffee with Erik and thanked him for the work he did on the Marine Memorial Mall and asked him if he had time to re-vision what we could do there.”

Holtsmark explained: “There are Australian tea trees at the north end and the south end, which are a problem right now. They can be trimmed to open up the viewing space to the ocean. These trees are beautiful in terms of the trunks and the branches, but the crowns are not attractive. There is a lot of space to work with if you trim out the trees in certain areas.”

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The Scripps Park picnic area off Coast Boulevard sits on dirt and includes tables and Australian tea trees.
Ashley Mackin-Solomon

Any improvements would need to meet the terms of the Scripps Park Plan, which he said allows for the pruning, removing and replacing of trees, and contouring and grading. “It allows for correcting the interface between the grass and the ground, and artistic designs and create a sense of place,” Holtsmark said.

However, the prospect of losing the trees raised a few eyebrows.

“I personally love those old Dr. Seuss trees, and if they are not in trouble, they shouldn’t have to go,” said LJP&B trustee Melinda Merryweather.

Trustee Jane Reldan questioned what would be used to replace the trees, should they be removed, and restore the shade.

Holtsmark explained there are about 15 trees that could be considered.

The three rectangular existing tables would also be taken away as part of his plan.

“I’m very adamant about using (six) round tables, because if you use round tables and fixed stools or chairs, you can bring in extra chairs, strollers or wheelchairs,” he said.

Although Holtsmark offered statuesque features coming from the table to provide shade, collect solar energy and provide a creative design, trustee Judy Adams Halter opined: “The park does need help and this could be an improvement, I would just try to keep it very natural.”

Going forward, trustee John Shannon said it would be important to observe how people use the park and create features to accommodate that usage.

Rather than vote on the project, the board agreed to visit the site, consider what needs should be met, decide the aesthetic they would like to see in place and discuss it all at a future meeting.

“This is just a first run, but I think we all agree it would be fabulous to have a good plan for this area that we could get the City to implement or generate private donations for,” Dynes said.

In other Parks & Beaches news ...

Tree Talk: In light of “a lot of tree stuff that has come up lately,” Dynes invited San Diego City Forester Brian Widener to speak and explain the City process with planting and trimming trees.

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San Diego City Forester Brian Widener addresses the La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group with an explanation of who maintains what.
Ashley Mackin-Solomon

Two issues in particular include the trimming of overgrown palm trees on the south end of Coast Boulevard, near a seating area known as a belvedere; and the possible replacement of a palm tree at the Wedding Bowl.

“We wanted to see what we could do with the City to get these projects going, and see who trims and maintains them,” Dynes said.

Widener explained: “We manage all the trees on public property, in streets right of way; that includes planting and trimming trees,” but sometimes there is a backlog because it takes a while to determine whose jurisdiction the tree is under, based on the location. He said the Development Services Department and Transportation & Stormwater share responsibility for different tree-related projects, and some areas are subject to “cross-jurisdiction.” He suggested using the City’s Get It Done App to report trees in need of trimming care to the appropriate entities.

Trustee Bob Evans said he would work with Widener to request the City trim the palm trees at Coast Boulevard. “If not, we’re looking to collect donations to get the trees trimmed,” Evans said.

Slope work resumes: Representing City Council member Barbara Bry, Mauricio Medina said the slope stabilization project on Torrey Pines Road resumed following a rainy period. “They are still aiming to finish by the summer construction moratorium (May 27),” he said. “I will keep on them to make that deadline. We appreciate everyone’s patience on this, it will be exciting when that project is done.”

The project would restore the slope between Little Street and Roseland Drive, and has been underway, off and on, since spring 2018.

Acquisition working group: Trustee Merryweather said she was seeking suggestions for places in La Jolla where mini-parks or pocket parks could be created, and volunteers to help her with a project to compile a list of locations. “By 2020, we are going to be completely under-parked in La Jolla, so any place we can make out, such as Moss Lane and Pottery Canyon, would be great to turn into a park,” she said.

Merryweather added that she would consult the City’s Real Estate Assets Department (for City-owned but vacant properties) and report back at a future meeting.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches board next meets 4 p.m. Monday, April 22 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollaparksbeaches.org