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A Bridge Too Close? La Jolla Scenic Drive residents protest proposed overpass

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La Jolla Scenic Drive North (foreground) would be joined with La Jolla Scenic Drive South (background) by a bridge proposed over La Jolla Parkway at this spot. Landing pads for the bridge were installed decades ago near where the two La Jolla Scenic Drives end.
(COREY LEVITAN)

Thirty-five audience members packed the Dec. 18 La Jolla Traffic & Transportation (T&T) board meeting, nearly all to protest the reconsideration of a bridge that would join La Jolla Scenic Drive North and La Jolla Scenic Drive South over La Jolla Parkway. The project had appeared in the La Jolla Community Plan in 1972, when La Jolla Parkway was known as Ardath Road, but was removed from the plan after landing pads for the bridge were installed.

La Jolla real-estate agent Lance Peto presented in favor of the bridge, showing a vintage drawing and explaining that traffic where Torrey Pines Road, Hidden Valley Road and La Jolla Parkway intersect is “beyond horrendous “ and “getting worse and worse.”

He explained that lives have probably been lost because people with medical emergencies on Mt. Soledad have to be evacuated through this traffic jam instead of immediately up to the hospitals on the mesa or across the I-5 Freeway.

When an audience member interrupted to ask Peto who he represented and he replied “residents,” screaming erupted from the crowd. Vehement opposition was expressed to the increased traffic this bridge would bring to the area. Two members said it already takes more than 15 minutes to get out of their driveways. One claimed the bridge would not benefit any residents of La Jolla, only visitors passing through it.

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When asked how many of the meeting’s attendees lived on La Jolla Scenic Drive North, 30 of the 35 raised their hands. When asked how many lived on La Jolla Scenic Drive North and support the bridge, only one hand went up.

“The problem is that when you’ve got a road negatively affecting one particular group, they all come to a meeting and say that a project is no good for the entire community,” commented developer David Bourne, who was waiting to present a later project. “The entirety of La Jolla should decide whether a project like this is good for all of La Jolla.”

Louis Rodolico, candidate for City Council District 1 and a resident of University City, added that decisions about which projects to pursue are made solely in the interest of “residents who live there throwing around a lot of political weight and money” and not the greater good of the town. He called the lack of a bridge at this site “a clear failure of government.”

Trustee Natalie Aguirre spoke passionately in favor of the bridge.

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“When we shut down Torrey Pines Road to one lane last spring, it destroyed our business,” said the store manager for J McLaughlin clothing. “People don’t come shopping in La Jolla because of all the traffic. Look at all the empty storefronts on Girard Avenue. It’s not just about the rents.”

Aguirre said the UCSD engineering department should be asked to help with the bridge/traffic study “and make this a community project.” (She was applauded by a few in the audience, and then hissed, after making this statement.)

Trustee Ross Rudolph, who identified himself as a former resident of La Jolla Scenic Drive North, said he opposed the bridge. Trustee Patrick Ryan said he was on the fence. Trustee Tom Brady said supported asking for a traffic study.

Peto acknowledged that neither side has enough information to make an informed decision yet anyway.

“We need to get the designs from the City and find out why this was terminated,” Peto said, explaining that he requested the information from the City and didn’t receive it. “That will allow us to proceed with further studies so I can ultimately bring it to the La Jolla Community Planning Association.”

Richard Smith, an audience member who identified himself as a former Town Council trustee and La Jollan since 1952, claimed to know why the project was removed from the La Jolla Community Plan. He said the bridge was never intended to connect La Jolla Scenic Drive North with the sliver of road called La Jolla Scenic Drive South that intersects with Via Capri — as most attendees assumed.

Smith said that the original proposal was for the bridge to connect with a new roadway that would climb over Mt. Soledad to join La Jolla Scenic Drive South by the cross, since Via Capri “could never handle that amount of traffic.”

The reason the proposal was rejected, Smith said, was because construction of the new road would have been “very expensive and it would have ended up taking up a significant part of the Mt. Soledad open-space area.”

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Although T&T chair Dave Abrams said he didn’t personally support the bridge “because it’s god-awful expensive and will divert traffic from one place to another,” he agreed with Peto’s request for more information from the City. He asked City Council member Barbara Bry’s representative Steve Hadley to track down the lacking information and moved to table the item to the next meeting, a motion that received unanimous approval.

“We all agree there’s definitely a traffic problem in La Jolla,” Abrams said.

More Coast Boulevard closures

Kicking off the meeting was City Public Works representative Shawn Krause, who presented a proposal for the concrete repaving of Coast Boulevard near the Cave Store — including a reconfiguration of its parking lot. She said the project would start in Fall 2020 and take two months. Both sides of Coast Boulevard, on either side of the emergency repair work completed in October, would be repaired and the area would be brought up to ADA compliance.

Krause said the road will mostly have one lane open during the repair work, and be completely shut down two or three days.

La Jolla resident Bill Robbins said the City had promised the restaurants to do this work during their slow time in November. “What happened to that?” he asked.

Krause replied that the City preferred to do it as soon as possible, which meant immediately after summer work moratorium. “We originally intended to finish the project before summer, but that wasn’t possible with the environmental permits we needed,” she said.

The board unanimously recommended a Coastal Development Permit for the work.

Parking validation

Immediately following the bridge debate, Bourne watched 24 of the 35 audience members exit the Rec Center and seem to validate his point about La Jollans only acting in their personal, not collective, self-interest. Only nine people were left to hear him propose diagonal parking on both sides of Eads Avenue between Rushville and Pearl streets. (Currently, there is only parallel parking there.)

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Bourne produced a parking analysis claiming that the move would create 12 additional spaces. (Bourne had faced opposition from neighbors because his approved mixed-use building at 801 Pearl St. — adjacent to that same strip of Eads — offers 26 apartments but only 23 parking spots.)

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said trustee Ryan. “The criticism with angled parking is usually the safety of vehicles pulling out. But look at the difference it made in Bird Rock.”

Abrams agreed to send Bourne’s analysis to the City and place the item on the agenda for the next meeting.

La Jolla Traffic & Transportation board next meets 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 at La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Draper Ave. Chair Abrams may be contacted at manana@san.rr.com


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