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La Jolla Shores Association discusses options to step up fire safety

The La Jolla Shores Association takes up the issue of local fire safety at its Sept. 9 meeting on Zoom.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The La Jolla Shores Association took up the issue of beach fires after the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board agreed last month to form a subcommittee across both groups to address local concerns.

LJSA board member Andi Andreae said at the association’s Sept. 9 meeting that “people are still very much of the opinion that the [San Diego] Police Department should be doing something. Demography has changed and health awareness of people has changed. … We’re learning about the health impacts from beach fires.”

LJSA President Janie Emerson agreed, saying beach fires are a larger problem now compared with past years because “there weren’t as many people and we didn’t have as much air pollution.”

Though The Shores, unlike Marine Street and Windansea beaches, has fire rings to contain fires, beach-goers often create fires in the sand, as they do at other beaches.

“We have had people digging into the sand and doing a fire,” Emerson said, “then piling sand on top of it thinking it’s going to put it out. People [come] the next day and [get] third-degree burns.”

The La Jolla Town Council heard two presentations about fire safety at its Sept. 10 meeting in an annual forum designed to educate residents about fire risk and ways to prepare for a fire emergency.

LJSA board member Dede Donovan said, “I’m just wondering if there isn’t some way to get this under control without eliminating fires altogether.”

Andreae said, “I think the way to do it is to allow propane gas fires; that would be a nonpolluting alternative.”

He acknowledged that propane fires are “not as much fun as having a big bonfire, but it allows barbecuing, it allows recreational fires.”

“The only regulation you may be able to enforce is no fires or propane fires only, but anything that allows bonfires is utterly unenforceable,” he said. “This is not something that happens now and then; this is an issue that happens daily.”

Emerson told LJSA board members about the joint committee with La Jolla Parks & Beaches, which plans to look into possible actions and “perhaps send a letter to the appropriate authorities.”

Pottery Canyon subcommittee

Dry brush and other natural debris in Pottery Canyon have local residents concerned.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Continuing to address local fire safety concerns, another subcommittee composed of LJSA and LJP&B members reported on a meeting with city officials in Pottery Canyon.

Andreae said subcommittee members, along with local residents, representatives of the San Diego Fire and Parks and Recreation departments, Steve Hadley from City Council member Barbara Bry’s office and a representative of Torrey Pines Christian Church, which sits atop the canyon, met Sept. 9.

“Residents have expressed their concerns about fires, which would be brought up the canyon by the steep slopes and vegetation,” Andreae said. “It was explained [by city officials] that since this park is an open space park, the ecosystem integrity was a main management objective and that regulations are quite specific and clear about what can and cannot be done.”

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.

“There’s a perimeter of 100 feet around residential structures that can be cleared [by] 50 percent,” Andreae said. “But otherwise, the park land is supposed to be maintained as a natural ecosystem and it is not lawful to cut down vegetation either by Parks and Rec nor by residents.”

Hadley said at the LJSA meeting that “the only loophole that we found was that the Parks and Rec people cannot go in and begin to take out vegetation beyond that 100-foot boundary, but from time to time they do revegetation to eradicate non-native [plants] on a slope or hillside.”

That method would help eliminate particular hazards, Hadley said. “In the future, it may be to our benefit to … simply ask for eradication of non-native things and revegetation of native in the hopes of keeping the non-native fire brush out of there,” he said.

Alexandra Corsi, a subcommittee member from LJP&B, said, “It’s good to know we can count on the revegetation project to get things done.”

Andreae said “the limitation of that was the removal of non-native [vegetation] is a project, not maintenance, so it would have to be approved and executed as a project, funded separately.”

No further action will be taken by the subcommittee, Andreae said, but committee member Claudia Baranowski from LJP&B said “it was great to get all the players in one place together.”

“There was some good education in that respect,” she said. “We now have the ear of the city, so … we will keep you apprised.” ◆