DPR hears city plans for vehicle turnaround at Coast Walk

The parking area at the end of La Jolla's Coast Walk, where the city of San Diego plans to put a turnaround for cars.

As Friends of Coast Walk Trail makes progress in efforts to improve its namesake trail, the city of San Diego is stepping in with its own addition: a turnaround for cars at the end of Coast Walk.

Representatives of the city presented plans for review at the June 16 La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meeting. A vote is expected at a future meeting.

The city seeks a site development permit and coastal development permit to create the turnaround and convert an existing parking space into a designated disabled space in the Coast Walk parking lot.

Coast Walk (a short street west of Torrey Pines Road between Prospect Place and Amalfi Street) is a paved residential road that connects to the Coast Walk pedestrian trail and scenic path that starts at Goldfish Point. The driveway onto Coast Walk from Torrey Pines Road is narrow, with the curbs painted red, except for two spaces large enough for two cars.

There is no form of turnaround at the end of the street, nor is there a way to determine whether any parking spaces are available. In 2019, the La Jolla Community Planning Association asked the city to install the turnaround.

La Jollan Melinda Merryweather, who championed the project the past four years, said it is “terribly needed.”

“There is a terrible safety issue with people trying to get out [of Coast Walk when there is no parking] and a lot of people end up needing to back out all the way up because they do not see a way to turn around ... and it is very dangerous,” Merryweather said.

The turnaround is in the environmental review process and a cost estimate was not available.

Resident Paul Teirstein said he supports the project but requested that signage be improved so people will keep the roadway clear (there is only a sign at the top of the street indicating there is no turnaround). He also said people often double park in a way that blocks through traffic, and he wondered what enforcement there would be.

“It is really frustrating to have a bunch of cars parked in the middle of the road, and it happens from sunset until pretty late in the night,” he said.

City traffic engineer Gary Pence said he agreed to consider new wording on the sign and had met with the San Diego Police Department.

“They have committed to extra enforcement upfront once the project changed,” he said. “We can’t guarantee that scenario will not happen again, but parking in a blue parking space [without the proper placards or stickers] is a pretty hefty ticket, so drivers would be taking quite a risk by parking there.”

Though most of Coast Walk beyond the parking lot is not disabled-accessible, Pence said the inclusion of a designated parking space would be required “if we are going to do any construction related to the parking there.”

During trustee comments, Diane Kane questioned whether the turnaround would encourage use beyond what the trail could sustain.

“I wonder if we have a fragile resource that is in danger of being loved to death,” she said. “The more parking and the more access you provide, the greater the impact. I know the trail is getting a lot of activity … is there some way of limiting access to protect what we have? Otherwise, the whole area is going to be turned into a sidewalk, and that will impair what is so precious about that very fragile bit of habitat. ... I think that is a special piece of La Jolla. … We love inviting visitors and sharing what we have, but let’s protect it so we continue to have it.”

Though the DPR board was in support of the turnaround and parking changes “in principle,” Chairman Brian Will said, because of lingering questions with how the signage would be updated, it asked the engineers to return for a vote.

Other Coast Walk news

As part of a multiphase project, Friends of Coast Walk Trail completed a series of upgrades to the area this month.

In the first week of June in the area between The Cave Store entrance and what is known as the Prospect stairs, vegetation was removed, drainage was improved, a large hole was patched, uneven trail surfaces were filled in and leveled, benches were repaired and repainted, graffiti was removed and more, the group said.

Similar repairs were done on the other half of the trail — between the Prospect stairs and the parking lot — the second week of June.

Most recently, FOCWT completed a project to lay decomposed granite from Coast Boulevard to the Prospect stairs.

“These repairs are a much-welcome change,” said FOCWT President Brenda Fake. “The trail has been restored, is wider in areas where it was eroded and opened up in areas where the vegetation was encroaching across the path. It is also set up to do a better job (with much input from several trail, public works and construction professionals) with drainage, Enemy No. 1 of the trail. It also is designed to ... remain socially distanced — something that is not going away after COVID-19. This is a safer walk with improved access.”

The project has been funded entirely by private donations. Fake encouraged those interested in donating to visit ◆