City hesitant to remove Star Pine at La Jolla Recreation Center

City representatives are reluctant to cut down and replace this Star Pine that fronts the La Jolla Rec Center, even though board members have requested the tree be removed.
(Light File)

San Diego Department of Park & Rec assistant director Andy Field arrived at the April 24 meeting of the La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group (LJRAG) to provide the latest news on Rec Center improvements. He also explained that the City is reluctant to cut down and replace the “healthy” Star Pine tree that faces the corner of Draper Avenue and Prospect Street. Earlier this year, the board approved a project to replace the tree with one that could be used as a community holiday tree.

“I’ve been told that I do not have the authority to remove a healthy natural tree,” Field explained. “If there is a safety hazard, yes, we can remove it. I was under the impression we could take the tree out if someone other than the City funds it (which the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club expressed willingness to do), but I’ve gotten some resistance on that.” While consultants have weighed in and advised the tree be removed, the City would need the recommendation of an certified arborist to pursue it.

“If we have it in writing from an arborist that there is a safety issue from a risky tree, then we can continue, based on the tree being unsafe,” Field said. “If the arborist refuses to fill out the report (that says ithe tree is unsafe), then my recommendation to this group is for the Rotary to plant a holiday tree elsewhere on the grounds.”

The board agreed that they still wanted the tree removed, and were willing to get an arborist’s opinion in writing to submit to the City. The reasoning is that the tree has gotten too large to decorate for the holidays and its leader (the main upright stem) broke, and four smaller, weaker ones grew from it.

However, Field pointed out that the tree contributes to the City’s Climate Action Plan urban forest tree canopy, which calls for the City to have 15 percent tree coverage by 2020, and 35 percent coverage by 2035.

In other Rec Center news

Slow Wi-Fi: Although the La Jolla center was scheduled to have Wi-Fi installed over the weekend of April 27, a delay pushed the installation back to an unknown date. LJRAG has been advovating for Wi-Fi for more than a year. Once installed, the signal will include the whole building and all the way to the Tennis Club bleachers.

Basketball courts: Although the basketball courts were slated for replacement during for this fiscal year, the project has also been pushed back, likely to October.

“That is our goal,” Field said. “The Public Works Department will come in, and they will begin the process to strip about two inches of asphalt off the court. When we strip it, we are hoping to take every bit of asphalt out. So that will include the basketball courts, the hardball courts, the alley between the tennis courts and the hardball courts and the older kids playground, as well as the corridor that comes down from the courts alongside the basketball courts. Once that is all done, it will be repaved with another two inches of asphalt.”

In the meantime, the City will fill the cracks in the basketball courts with tar to “get us through the summer.”

A schedule was not announced, but Field said it would be a “multi-week endeavor” to get the courts stripped, repaved and ready for public use. As part of the project, the big eucalyptus tree near the “tot lot” will probably be removed. “The tree is not exactly stable as it is,” Field said, “and if we cut the roots (to make room for the new asphalt) that tree will not be secure anymore. It has grown laterally under the asphalt rather than down into the dirt, as eucalyptus do. We are going to have that evaluated by an arborist.”

The City is also looking to provide umbrellas for the tables to provide shade.

ADA projects: Following the basketball court renovation, the next “major step” will be to bring some of the paths and on-site restrooms into ADA compliance, install new drinking fountains and a water bottle filler. Once that is complete, the La Jolla Rec Center Visioning Committee, which is in the process of drafting a master plan for the grounds, will have a more finalized layout of the property and can more accurately map what fixtures are where, and where there is a flexibility to install new equipment.

Summer programming: La Jolla Rec Center director Jesse DeLille said new programming was coming this summer. “We want to get some basketball and football clinics going because the citywide leagues start in the fall and we want to recruit kids and generate some interest and give them some of the skills ahead of that,” he said. “We’re also looking to do a summer activity week like we do for the spring, and on the last day, we want to take the kids down to the tide-pools and let them experience everything there.”

Senior Dance: The popular Senior Dance for those ages 55 and older will return 5-8:30 p.m. Friday, May 17. The cost is $15 and includes dinner, beverages, coffee and dessert, with entertainment provided by the Breez’n Band. Tickets at

— La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group next meets 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 22 at Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. (858) 552-1658.

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