A lot has happened in the last few months to move forward with The Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla Educational Plaza (aka The Map) installation at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores.
After a complaint was filed with the California Coastal Commission (CCC) — arguing the project is not a repair and replacement but actually a completely new project and therefore subject to a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) — additional approvals may be required.
The Map includes small tiles pieced together in a process known as LithoMosaic to create images of the marine life found off the Shores coast as an educational display. It uses different shades of blue to represent the different ocean depths.
Hoping to bypass the CDP process, which would add time and cost to the project, Friends of La Jolla Shores and Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans representative Mary Coakley-Munk sought approval at the July 18 La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) meeting to send a letter indicating the project meets CDP exemption.
Addressed to the City’s Development Service Department and signed by LJCPA president Tony Crisafi, the letter reads: “The La Jolla Community Planning Association advises the City that the Kellogg Park replacement map and access ways adjacent to the Vallecitos comfort station qualifies as a repair and maintenance project that should be administered through the City Development Services Department. The following facts apply to the decision to advise: 1) applicants have worked with State Coastal Commission staff to ensure replacement meets, matches or exceeds access; 2) material quality and performance; 3) materials and process complies with City municipal code; and 4) work on site shall commence after 2019 summer moratorium.”
A motion to approve sending the letter to Development Services passed 11-4-1.
The original Map was created in 2008 and installed at Kellogg Park with tiny colored beads and bronze fish secured into the ground sealed with Lithocrete. There was no fencing, which allowed uninhibited access. As such, the Lithocrete cracked and the beads began to unearth soon afterward. The Map had to be closed to the public in 2012.
Friends of La Jolla Shores sued the installer, TB Penick, in 2013, and the suit was withdrawn after an agreement was struck. The wait since then has been to get the San Diego Department of Park & Rec and the CCC to agree to the terms set by the two parties. The location of the previous Map was covered in decomposed granite, which remains today.
At the LJCPA meeting, speakers Charles White and Edie Munk (believed to have filed the Coastal Commission complaint) expressed “concerns” about The Map; specifically that it is not a maintenance project, but is attempting to be processed as one.
Edie Munk said: “Never in any of the fundraising efforts over the last several years has it ever been mentioned that this is a maintenance and repair project … because the fundraising efforts are for a brand new map. There is no map to maintain or repair. I do not understand why this is being referred to as a repair when there is nothing to repair.”
However, LJCPA trustee Dave Gordon opined: “If someone had a house in La Jolla Shores, and it burned down or fell down in an earthquake, they would not require them to do the whole CDP process to build a new house that covers the same footprint as before.”
The Map would be installed next to the restrooms and the playground structure, in the same location as its predecessor. Some of the new features include a “plaza” with The Map, a 3-D bronze casting depicting the underwater topography of the “Grand Canyons of La Jolla” (off the Shores coast), interpretive panels, landscaping, fencing and a newly paved walkway.
La Jolla contractor Tom Grunow, who is helping with the project, said there would be an “absolutely beautiful” piece of railing to surround the installation with a “thin profile” to preserve ocean views. With an opening to allow pedestrians onto The Map, the fencing would limit, but not prohibit access.
In the weeks following the LJCPA meeting, Coakley-Munk said meetings were being scheduled with the CCC to negotiate the terms of the installation. A meeting is expected this week.
“We are spending eight hours a day doing what we can to get everyone on board and produce a project that everyone is happy with,” she said. “But we are not doing any major fundraising until we get all the necessary approvals. Once we know we are good to go, we will do more.”
The project is being constructed in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s (SIO) former, emptied Southwest Science Fisheries building, which is about to undergo its own renovation. The cliff-hugging building has been slated for demolition since the 1997-1998 El Nino winter, which exacerbated erosion of the cliff. Some of the building was torn down, the remaining will be redeveloped into the UC San Diego Marine Conservation Facility.
The Map was intended to be constructed and installed by spring of this year, but was postponed in light of the passing of famed oceanographer Walter Munk, Coakley-Munk’s husband and honorary chair of the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans.
“The fact that we have to take it through the CDP process is delaying the project,” Coakley-Munk told La Jolla Light. “We might have to move The Map because the plans for the Southwest Science Fisheries building are due to start construction. We would have to move and store if at another location until we have approval.”
SIO communications officer Lauren Wood said work on the Marine Conservation Facility is planned to start in November, but would likely not begin until early 2020. However, the facility would need to be vacated by Oct. 31 in case work is ready to proceed in November. Should there be any additional delays to The Map, it would have to be moved.
Map open house postponed
An open house to see The Map’s progress was scheduled for Aug. 11, but was postponed. A new date has not been announced.
Plans are “optimistically” to break ground on what would have been Walter Munk’s birthday Oct. 19, but that is assuming “there are no appeals,” Coakley-Munk said. “As far as we have found, the community largely supports this project. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t go through all this.”
— Learn more about The Map installation at waltermunkfoundation.org