Traffic board OKs loading zone at La Jolla Cove

A City of San Diego request to convert four angled public parking places adjacent Scripps Park into yellow commercial loading zones raised a few eyebrows at La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation advisory group (LJT&T) meeting Sept. 21. Seeking a compromise, the board ultimately decided to approve the conversion of one parking space on a one-year trial basis.

Yellow commercial loading zones allow for 20-minute parking of vehicles with commercial license plates. Conventionally, the 20-minute limitation expires at 6 p.m. and does not apply on Sundays. 

Applicant Michael Ruiz, a city park ranger for shoreline parks, said he has seen an increase in events that obviate the need for a commercial loading zone. “As park managers, our goal is to balance all the needs of the park. … and the number of events that take place in Scripps Park present a need for commercial parking. The Bridge Club alone hosts events on a weekly basis.” He added there are more than 50 large events scheduled at the park for calendar year 2016.

Should an event, such as a wedding, concert or fundraiser, require vendors to unload rentals, the current situation forces drivers to double park their trucks or illegally drive them onto the park itself. “For us, that is the worst-case scenario because we don’t want a park-goer to get hit,” Ruiz said. 

He said the practice has long taken place, but with the posting of more park rangers, there can be more enforcement. 

Commercial trucks are prohibited from driving onto the park, unless it is for a “special event” with a city-appointed event manager. An event can only be classified as a “special event” if the number of attendees is expected to be beyond the capacity of the park (i.e. Fourth of July fireworks, Concours d’Elegance car show and La Jolla Half Marathon). 

In addition to the major events, Ruiz said there are approximately 100 smaller events for which vendors could use the commercial parking space, in addition to its use by workers who conduct regular maintenance at The Bridge Club such as gardeners, plumbers, etc. 

Although the city requested four spaces, with restrictions in effect seven days a week — a deviation from the normal restrictions on yellow commercial zones, which do not apply on Sundays — Ruiz said anything that provides an alternative to what is currently taking place would help. “We would be happy with anything that creates an option,” he said. 

A motion to support the conversion of one parking space into a yellow commercial loading zone with standard restrictions (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday) for a one-year test run, was approved 7-2. 

In other T&T news:

La Jolla Mesa stop sign denied: After taking the conventional approach to establishing an all-way Stop at La Jolla Mesa Boulevard at Skylark Drive and being denied, representatives from the homeowner’s association appealed to LJT&T in an alternative process.

 

LJT&T chair Dave Abrams explained to the group that when a neighborhood applies for a stop sign, “The city conducts an analysis to look at the features and characteristics of the intersection, and assigns ‘points.’ These points, or warrants, indicate whether the area warrants a stop sign. To warrant a stop sign, 20 points are required. In this case, the proposal achieved nine points. Residents are coming to us with the hopes the city will see there are other circumstances that warrant a stop sign and override the study.”

Providing a lay of the land, resident Steve Johnson said La Jolla Mesa starts at the top of a hill near La Jolla Scenic Drive and goes all the way down to Pacific Beach with no stop signs. Drivers speed up the hill and then even more so going down the hill. “Pulling out from Skylark is a challenge,” he said. “There are also designated bike paths on the street.” 

Further, he argued, there is only a usable sidewalk on one side of the street, so those who wish to walk to Pacific Beach have to use that side of the street. For some, that means crossing a street subject to speedy drivers and low visibility.

Residents in attendance reported there have been two fatalities in the last 25 years, and recently, a couple crossing the street with their toddler in a stroller, were nearly hit. Although empathetic, the board could not justify the installation of a stop sign. 

“The city appoints these warrants for a reason, and when you put a stop sign in a location where it shouldn’t be, you create more problems than you solve,” Abrams said. “It’s like killing a fly with a sledgehammer. My concern is people will blow through that stop sign, and when you rely on that to create a safe place to cross the street, it can create a hazard.”

He encouraged an alternative, such as a pedestrian-activated crosswalk (similar to the one that crosses La Jolla Boulevard at Westbourne Street), or blinking speed limit indicator sign (similar to ones found on Torrey Pines Road). 

LJT&T member Tom Brady added, “I sympathize with the problem, because the traffic on that street goes so damn fast. It’s dangerous to turn left off of Skylark turning left to come into the Village, but I don’t think we as a board can make findings in support of residents, because of the city’s warrants.”

He moved to deny the request, and suggested the residents seek an alternative for the safety of pedestrians, which passed 8-1.

Church fall fest expands: The third annual La Jolla Presbyterian Church Fall Festival, Nov. 6 (previously confined to the church campus), will expand to the Rec Center and Draper Avenue this year, following a request from church representative Erika Hill. “We want to make it more of a community event this year, so our plan is to have children’s activities at the Rec Center with jumpy houses, pony rides, face painting and more, and food trucks and tables set up on Draper Avenue,” she said. 

Hill requested a street closure 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6 along Draper Avenue between Kline and Prospect streets. Though the event will run 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the extra time is for cleanup and break down. The festival is free to attend, but an all-access wristband for children is $10. The church will provide garbage cans and custodial staff for the event. 

Hill said she received verbal support from other businesses on that block, including La Jolla Woman’s Club and The Bed & Breakfast Inn. 

When questioned about the use of food trucks, which are reportedly not allowed in La Jolla’s Planned District, Hill said she spoke to city staff “multiple times” to note the reason for the closure would be for food trucks, and no objection was stated. 

A motion to approve the street closure, pending receipt of written approval from the Woman’s Club and The Bed & Breakfast Inn, passed unanimously.

Pantai alley to close for event: A request for temporary street closure of Ocean Lane between Coast Boulevard and Coast Boulevard South related to a private automotive event at the Pantai Inn Dec. 4-11 was also approved. 

Applicant Mike Murrell said the event is a roll-out for the 2017 Subaru Impreza, during which three groups of journalists, photographers and engineers (60 at a time) will stay at Pantai Inn to explore the new models. The cars will be on display in the eight private parking spaces on Ocean Lane and the guests would drive them around San Diego. No public parking would be taken up as part of this event, and the alley would still be open for pedestrian access. A motion to support the closure passed unanimously. 

LJT&T next meets 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org

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