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‘It’s hazardous’: Local leaders seek action on Pottery Canyon fire risk

Some area residents say fallen trees pose a fire risk in La Jolla's Pottery Canyon.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

To address a perceived fire and flood danger in Pottery Canyon, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group is looking to join with other community groups to draft and circulate a letter to the city of San Diego seeking action.

LJP&B President Ann Dynes said during the board’s July 27 meeting that “there is debris along the trails that poses a fire risk and there is a flooding problem there.” But she said the group is limited in what it can do.

In 2018, LJP&B submitted a plan asking the city to revamp the area so it could be used as a public park, including removing dead trees, manicuring vegetation, installing benches and refining what is now a makeshift parking area.

However, city representatives responded in 2019 that “due to the exceptional habitat value of the site, potential for environmental damage if the site is further developed and proximity to private property, the parcel is not suitable for additional park development beyond its current preserved state as a part of the open space system.”

Since then, residents who live nearby and volunteers such as Kurt Hoffman have looked into ways to improve the area.

“There is no ability to have volunteers work in city parks because of COVID, so we cannot have them go in,” Hoffman said. “It’s a city directive to work with City Council members to alleviate that current liability concern.”

He questioned whether money could be raised privately to pay for cleanup services under LJP&B’s insurance.

Nearby residents Bill and Claudia Allen said eucalyptus trees have fallen and subsequently died, posing a risk (eucalyptus oil is considered highly flammable).

“My fear with the fire danger is for those that live in the Cliffridge Park area [above Pottery Canyon], because that is where the fire is going to go,” Bill Allen said. “The only other concern is making sure we have egress so we can get out of here if we have a fire.”

LJP&B member Phyllis Minick added that if there were a fire, getting away from it on Torrey Pines Road would be “impossible” if there is already traffic on the thoroughfare.

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane, who attended the meeting, said, “It’s not just something that is unsightly, it’s hazardous.”

Dynes suggested drafting a letter to ask the city to act, or authorize the board to apply for a city permit and grant money from the San Diego Parks Foundation and pursue cleanup. Kane suggested shopping the letter to other community planning groups for their signatures.

In addition to LJCPA, Kane suggested reaching out to the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board due to potential traffic impacts should there be a fire, and to the La Jolla Town Council. From there, the letter could be submitted to City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, whose district includes La Jolla.

The Pottery Canyon open space is named for the Rodriguez brothers’ famed pottery-making company, which was located there from 1928 to the 1970s.

The entrance is marked with a sign that reads “City of San Diego: Pottery Canyon Natural Park,” and the open space is accessed by a 0.2-mile paved road. There also is a metal gate that is opened and closed — often by residents — at the front end of the road. Both sides of the road are fenced off and marked as private property.

Other LJP&B news

Windansea belvedere: By a unanimous vote, LJP&B authorized payment to Jim Neri Landscape Architects to design and seek the appropriate permits for a planned belvedere shade structure at Windansea Beach.

The original structure was torn down in 1982 in what was reported to be an act of vandalism. Friends of Windansea is spearheading and funding the project.

The belvedere would be similar to the ones that line the coast up to the Children’s Pool, Neri has said. It would be just over 9 feet tall and constructed slightly downslope to reduce the visual impact.

“It will be a fairly small structure, all wood, painted green,” Neri said. “We’re replacing it in kind, with very few modifications for today’s accessibility, including shortening the L-shaped bench, providing a truncated seat for a wheelchair and a slightly widened opening to get in. Other than that, it will be an exact replica of what was there.”

Fay Avenue bike path: Continuing efforts to improve the Fay Avenue bike path (aka Fay Avenue extension), LJP&B member Debbie Adams has identified several areas for attention, such as brush removal.

Details as to when the cleanup would be conducted had not been determined.

In the past, Adams has worked with the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla to raise money to pay workers to clear the path and complete any other jobs that need to be done.

Going forward, the two organizations may work together to apply for permits and facilitate additional cleanups.

New member: After attending three meetings, Alexandria Corsi was seated as a new member of LJP&B. The Windansea resident said attending meetings as a member of the public had been “very rewarding.” She said she was a project manager for the city of San Diego and a park designer in her professional life.

“The bulk of the projects that come before this committee … are thrilling to me and how they affect our neighborhood for current and future generations,” she said.

Dynes called her a “terrific addition” with “great and relevant experience.”

La Jolla Parks & Beaches will next meet at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, tentatively via Zoom. Learn more at lajollaparksbeaches.org. ◆