La Jolla Woods residents join in concern about fire risk in Pottery Canyon

Dead trees and vegetation in Pottery Canyon have some area residents worried about fire risk.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Residents of an area known as La Jolla Woods near Cliffridge Park are joining a list of groups and individuals looking for reduced fire risk at Pottery Canyon.

The La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group continued its discussion of Pottery Canyon at its Aug. 24 meeting online. Though the board originally focused on developing the area so it could be used as a public park, it will now shift its efforts toward mitigating fire risks through brush management.

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.

In 2018, LJP&B submitted a plan asking the city to revamp the area so it could be used as a 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.”

This year, residents along and near Pottery Canyon have said they’re concerned about fires given the dead vegetation, including eucalyptus trees, which are highly flammable.

La Jolla Woods is an area in the ridge above the canyon, and one resident said there’s concern that if there is a fire in the canyon, it would travel up toward the Woods.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches board creates a subcommittee to seek enforcement.

LJP&B member Claudia Baranowski said a representative of the city’s Open Space Division told her “the main issue is the brush abatement … but there is not much that can be done in terms of trees unless they are within 100 feet of a structure” and that she was directed to the Fire-Rescue Department for an assessment.

Baranowski suggested having a subcommittee or a small group of interested parties meet to learn how the fire department would view such an abatement project and what the next steps would be. She added there isn’t funding in the city budget for a project such as this.

LJP&B President Ann Dynes said: “If we had a plan and knew what needed to happen, [knowing] the city will never come up with the funds to make that happen, we could potentially get a right-of-entry permit and raise the money and do it ourselves. If the risk is that high, it would be worth exploring.”

She added that she had been contacted by mountain bikers and La Jolla Woods residents who share her interest.

A subcommittee was formed and will pursue a meeting with the fire department.

Other Parks & Beaches news

Safety first: For its 2020-21 capital improvements projects list, the board will focus on projects intended to enhance safety. Every year, local boards are given the chance to submit projects they would like the city to fund in the coming year.

Funding sources include discretionary money a City Council member can allocate to city departments, and money for specific capital improvement projects.

LJP&B member Ken Hunrichs said this year “we are going to focus on safety issues, such as Pottery Canyon.”

New logo: To better brand the board, a subcommittee and volunteer Marion Beacham, daughter of LJP&B trustee Debbie Beacham, created possible logos for the group to use on letterheads. Two choices were presented for consideration, with one emerging as the clear favorite.

The new logo for the La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group.

The winning logo includes palm trees, waves, the sun and a shade structure known as a belvedere — things that Hunrichs referred to as “La Jolla signatures.”

Bike path partnership: LJP&B member Debbie Adams, who has voluntarily led the charge to clean up the Fay Avenue Bike Path, announced that the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla is willing to partner with her to streamline the process.

In the past, the Kiwanis offered grants to pay workers to clear the bike path of brush, litter and debris, and volunteers would help with some of the lighter work.

“We’ve identified the places that need professional help and volunteer help, and we set tentative dates of Oct. 22 for the professional cleanup and the next day for the volunteers,” Adams said. “We would like to partner with Kiwanis; they can get a right-of-entry permit.”

A motion to support the partnership and planned cleanup in October passed unanimously.

Princess Street access update: Plans to establish a coastal access trail from Princess Street to the beach below are well underway, though a small hiccup has emerged. Environmental Center of San Diego spokeswoman Pam Heatherington told LJP&B that the preliminary plans were presented to the California Coastal Commission on Aug. 13.

A “problem that has come up” is discovery of a drainage pipe that leads down to a cave, she said.

“We have a request for proposal for geotechnical firms which will dictate what [will need to] happen to get us down to the beach,” Heatherington said. “We don’t want a lot of concrete; we would rather have something that can be moved or removed if need be and be the least impactful.”

The next steps for the project are engineering studies needed to construct the trail, along with all the associated permits. Construction could take another year or two, Heatherington said.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, online. Learn more at ◆