Increased police presence to remain in La Jolla; Shores Association discusses beach, street safety

Members of the La Jolla Shores Association hear from police and lifeguard representatives at the Oct. 14 meeting.
Members of the La Jolla Shores Association hear from police and lifeguard representatives at the Oct. 14 meeting.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

San Diego police officers will continue to offer extra patrols and enforcement throughout La Jolla “indefinitely” due to increased crowds, according to Northern Division Lt. Lisa McKean.

Speaking at the Oct. 14 La Jolla Shores Association meeting, McKean said, “I don’t believe that summer has stopped, based upon the crowds that I’ve seen. I think with this COVID-19 pandemic, summer is continuing.”

To address summer crowds, Northern Division normally has “a day beach team that works May through September,” she said, and in response to the crowds continuing into the fall, she and division Captain Matt Novak “have decided to extend that team indefinitely … to address all the criminal activity that we have seen throughout the summers on our beaches, bays and parks.”

The day beach team, McKean said, consists of one sergeant and three officers, and is in addition to the night team, comprised of one sergeant and six officers. Together, the teams cover the entire Northern Division area, which runs from Torrey Pines to Mission Bay Park and Mission Beach and includes University City, Clairemont, Bay Ho and Bay Park.

McKean said the teams address “special projects. … With this group of officers, I can allocate them to a specific area to provide immediate relief to stop whatever criminal activity is occurring. This is outside our normal patrol.”

La Jolla is a “really good community here,” she said. “Our violent crime rate is probably one of the lowest, speaking anecdotally, in the city. So there’s not a particular area [of La Jolla] that we need to have these teams deployed to.”

LJSA President Janie Emerson asked McKean if there’s a way to have an officer go into the Kellogg Park parking lot after the gates are locked at 10 p.m. to ticket the cars that are parked inside.

“Definitely,” McKean said. “If you’re seeing that vehicles are in Kellogg Park after the gates are locked, it’s as easy as calling (619) 531-2000,” the police department’s non-emergency number. McKean also said she would talk to the night team to have them go to the parking lot and check for illegally parked vehicles without waiting for a reported complaint.

“I know that’s an issue,” she said. “We deal with that issue down at Mission Bay; we deal with it on Fiesta island. I will definitely have them hit up Kellogg Park as well.”

Addressing concerns of continuing parties and large gatherings on the beaches, with or without beach fires, McKean said “we still have the County of San Diego public health order in effect, which prohibits public gatherings,” she said, and urged those who see such gatherings to report them.

She said the division has “upped [its] staffing” for Halloween weekend, “as a preventative measure against acts of violence.”

Marine safety Capt. Maureen Hodges, speaking for the city’s Fire-Rescue Department, echoed that “we are still in quasi-summer mode,” attributing larger crowds on afternoons and weekends to “the heat wave and warm water.”

In response, Hodges said, “we are still keeping our seasonal staff out there with some extra staffing. At some point, it will slow down, and we will transition into our winter months,” which means training for department personnel and “a chance to reset and prepare for the next summer.”

She continued, “At the moment, we’re just trying to manage the crowds and the heat waves that keep coming.”

Hodges said there has been a “record number of calls at the Black’s Beach area. It is no longer a hidden gem; we are seeing crowds like we have never seen before down there.”

In a discussion of street congestion, Emerson asked the board members to brainstorm solutions to ease congestion “from La Jolla Shores Drive to the ocean,” citing complaints to the board from residents about increased traffic in the area.

Board member Andi Andreae said, “my experience is whenever you relieve congestion, by widening roads or whatever, all it does is attracts more traffic and you’re back to the same situation. I’m kind of fine with having congestion because it slows down traffic and may deter some of the overuse of the area.”

Board member Phil Wise added, “I don’t understand where there’s a problem. It’s just where we live.”

Board member Dede Donovan said, “I go down to that area almost every day, and I’m not bothered by street congestion.”

After a suggestion was made to install traffic circles on La Jolla Shores Drive, board member Joe Dicks said of the traffic circle installed on Via Capri, a project he was involved in, “it’s been an absolute miracle. It calms traffic, it doesn’t cause congestion, it’s landscaped, it’s pretty. It’s outstanding.”

Board member Mary Coakley Munk said, “I think the roundabouts are a great idea. I think the only thing that we should be thinking about if we’re going to do them is to make sure they’re aesthetically pleasing and not overgrown with weeds. I think there are plenty of ways to do that.”

The La Jolla Shores Association next meets 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11 online.