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With Pottery Canyon cleanup efforts slowed, La Jolla Parks & Beaches board looks to further explore options

Dead trees at Pottery Canyon pose what nearby residents see as a fire risk, but the city says they cannot be removed.
Dead trees at Pottery Canyon in La Jolla pose what nearby residents see as a fire risk, but the city of San Diego says they cannot be removed.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The La Jolla Parks & Beaches board’s efforts to get some vegetation trimmed and removed at Pottery Canyon to mitigate a perceived fire risk may have been stymied, but the group is trying to continue the mission.

During a meeting with LJP&B members onsite Sept. 9, city representatives said they were limited in what, if any, landscaping they could do.

During that meeting, “we learned that the canyon is one of 30 managed open space canyon parklands and it must be kept in its natural state, so no pruning, shaping or landscaping,” LJP&B member Claudia Baranowski said during the board’s Sept. 28 meeting online. “All the plants, animals and natural resources are protected. They are all maintained under city, state and federal regulations. So brush management is able to thin the brush to about 50 percent vegetation coverage within 100 feet of a structure, and it happens once every 21 months or so.”

Baranowski said, and was affirmed by Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilwoman Barbara Bry (whose district includes La Jolla), that the city is further limited by its budget and the potential that dead eucalyptus trees there could be habitat for animals.

“They are prohibited from doing anything outside of that 100-foot limit unless it is deemed necessary because of a fire hazard. At that point, it is sent to a Fire-Rescue brush inspection team, which recently inspected it and said everything looks fine there,” Baranowski said. “We asked about potential fires due to cars parked there, and they said it does not appear to be an issue and they will monitor it and make a change if need be.”

Kurt Hoffman, a member of the public, said: “Much of the vegetation there is not native. ... For the city to throw up their hands and do nothing … is really a cop-out. We are seeing volunteers do things in different areas, so maybe we can come together as a group and do something.”

The board’s next steps are to learn more about what’s possible in city open spaces and proceed from there. Baranowski said she would invite a city natural-resources manager to speak at a future LJP&B meeting.

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.

LJP&B decided to form a working group to lead an effort to mitigate fire risk and hazards associated with overgrown brush and dead trees.

Other Parks & Beaches news

Bike path chalk drawings: Following multiple recent events in which messages supporting the Black Lives Matter movement were drawn in chalk on the Fay Avenue Bike Path, and an announcement that they would not be removed by city crews, the board debated the issue.

For the latest in a string of gatherings, local residents and others took to the La Jolla Bike Path over the weekend to draw messages in support of racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement after neighbors’ previous complaints resulted in similar drawings being removed.

“This is political free speech, as much as it addresses governmental policy and action and is constitutionally protected as such,” Hadley said. “So council member [Bry] asked the mayor and received assurance that this time around, the chalk will not be power-washed off as it was previously. It will obviously naturally wear away out there with the dust and wind and people walking on it, but we asked that city crews not power-wash it away.”

People set up on the La Jolla Bike Path on Labor Day to make chalk art in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
(Stephen Simpson)

Board member Mary Ellen Morgan said she found that to be “very problematic,” asking: “If the city is going to allow unmitigated political expression, does that mean all political expression? So, I wanted to paint so-and-so for such-and-such, it is protected speech? Isn’t that going to cause more problems based on who likes who? … Why are you doing this for Black Lives Matter? This is political speech, and you can’t isolate for racial stuff.”

Member Marie Hunrichs agreed. “That makes me want go out and scribble my opinion about other issues. I find this offensive. I have nothing against Black people. To me, all lives matter, including the lives of Black people and Black children and White people. As far as BLM goes, I’ve looked into it and it’s a Marxist organization, and I do not agree with it.”

But trustee Melinda Merryweather said she rides her bike on the path three times a week and “the things that I have seen there are about love and peace and children’s lives mattering. ... Maybe there were some bad parts I didn’t see, but to me, it was really refreshing to see loving stuff written.”

LJP&B partners with the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla to facilitate cleanups of the bike path. The next one is Saturday, Oct. 24, and volunteers will be limited to removing debris and not any chalk writings that may be there.

Scripps restroom facility: LJP&B secretary Bob Evans, reading an update from project representative Vic Salazar, said the foundation for the new Scripps Park Pavilion restroom facility was poured Sept. 4 and construction has moved to the vertical phase. For the next 10 weeks, the work will continue and include pours for the walls on the south side.

The new facility will have more single-stall unisex toilets and a men’s and women’s toilet room. It also will feature benches, outdoor showers, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant toilets and indoor showers, and storage for beach equipment.

The facility as a whole is two buildings with a breezeway in between. One building houses the unisex stalls and the other the indoor showers and single-sex restrooms and changing rooms, surrounded by exterior features.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, online. Learn more at lajollaparksbeaches.org.