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La Jolla Parks & Beaches forms working group to address impacts of reservoir project

The La Jolla View Reservoir is planned to be demolished and replaced with an underground reservoir.
The La Jolla View Reservoir, located off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park, is planned to be demolished and replaced with an underground reservoir.
(File)

Members of La Jolla Parks & Beaches and other local community groups are teaming up to make suggestions to the city of San Diego to help reduce environmental impacts at La Jolla Heights Natural Park associated with the La Jolla View Reservoir replacement project.

“We want to form a working group with LJP&B members to focus on the impacts to the trail and biological resources of the La Jolla View area,” La Jolla Parks & Beaches trustee Patrick Ahern said during the board’s Jan. 25 meeting. He added that the La Jolla Community Planning Association would be represented to focus on neighborhood impacts and the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation advisory group would be represented to focus on traffic.

Ahern was joined in his call for working group members by nearby resident and former city planner Jack McGrory, who said: “We are not questioning the need for the project, which will expand the water capacity for La Jolla, create better pipelines and replace aging infrastructure. … But the proposed method would close the park for at least four years, and we have been critical in review of the EIR [environmental impact report] that they are running over the environmental impacts to the park. There are many bird species that have been cited there, such as the gnatcatcher, [in addition to] coastal sage habitat and other plants.”

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee determined Jan. 19 that the draft EIR was “incomplete” because it did not adequately address or propose mitigation for the project’s environmental effects on the surrounding area.

After nearly two hours of presentations, questions, discussion and debate, the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee determined that the draft environmental impact report for the La Jolla View Reservoir replacement project is incomplete and voted at its Jan. 19 meeting that findings could not be made to support the development.

The project would replace the 720,000-gallon La Jolla View Reservoir, an above-ground water storage tank, and the 990,000-gallon, partially above ground Exchange Place Reservoir with one new 3.1-million-gallon underground reservoir in La Jolla Heights Natural Park above the La Jolla Country Club area. The existing reservoirs and the Exchange Place Pump Station would be demolished and their sites would be returned to historical contours with native vegetation.

The La Jolla View Reservoir is located off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park, and the Exchange Place Reservoir is near the corner of Country Club Drive and Pepita Way. The reservoirs were built in 1949 and about 1909, respectively, and are no longer able to keep up with water use demands.

The San Diego Development Services Department is accepting public comments on the EIR through February. The draft report and associated technical appendices have been placed on the city website at sandiego.gov/ceqa/draft under “California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) notices and documents.”

The original deadline for comments was Feb. 15, but following the DPR Committee meeting, city spokesman Scott Robinson told the La Jolla Light that “upon receipt of a request from the planning group, a 14-day extension of the public review period will be granted.”

LJP&B trustee Jane Reldan asked that the board “do what we are supposed to do” and “protect open space.”

Fellow trustee Tom Brady said the working group is “absolutely necessary” and that time is of the essence given the deadline for EIR comments.

A motion to form the working group passed 16-1, with trustee Mary Ellen Morgan objecting without comment.

The La Jolla View Reservoir proposal also is slated to be heard at the Community Planning Association meeting Thursday, Feb. 4.

Other Parks & Beaches news

New member seated: Brenda Fake, a Coast Walk resident and president of Friends of Coast Walk Trail, was seated as a new LJP&B board member after Janet Stratford Collins stepped down.

Friends of Coast Walk Trail President Brenda Fake is a new member of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board.
(File)

Fake said she was excited to be joining the board. “This seems like a good time to be working collectively, and we have opportunities here to bring this group together and keeping things transparent,” she said.

For the past several years, Friends of Coast Walk Trail has worked with LJP&B to carry out improvement projects on the trail, which runs between Coast Walk (a short street west of Torrey Pines Road between Prospect Place and Amalfi Street) and Goldfish Point.

Trash in parks: Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose district includes La Jolla, said the office has received reports of increased trash in parks, partly because “people go to the parks with what they take out to eat from restaurants.”

Hadley said the city Parks & Recreation Department “has assured us they have not decreased the pickup; they have continued on their summer schedule. It is simply a volume issue. … When people see a full trash can, they just kind of leave it wherever.”

Hadley advocated for “spreading the message” that people need to take excess trash home or throw it away in a receptacle with space for it.

Pottery Canyon project: LJP&B member Alexandra Corsi said progress is being made on a brush abatement project in Pottery Canyon open space intended to reduce a perceived fire risk.

Some believe that fallen trees pose a fire risk in Pottery Canyon open space.
(File)

Corsi said LJP&B is partnering with San Diego Canyonlands, an organization whose mission is to promote, protect and restore natural habitats in San Diego County’s canyons and creeks.

“They have worked with the city on various projects and have a right-of-entry permit, which is huge,” she said. “They will propose a project that will take eight weeks to be completed, and they are working with the city’s natural resources manager to provide a three-phased proposal.”

Because there are some environmental constraints, such as the gnatcatcher breeding season, which requires any work to be done before March 1 or after Sept. 1, “we are recommending the work start in September,” Corsi said.

Additional fundraising may be necessary but would be addressed over the summer when a better scope of the work is established, she said.

Next meeting: La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22, online. Learn more at lajollaparksbeaches.org. ◆

A California gnatcatcher, observed during the 2020 City Nature Challenge, an international biodiversity event.

What is a gnatcatcher?

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, the California gnatcatcher is a small endangered bird native to Southern California and northwestern Mexico.

“Its limited habitat along the Southern California coast is being taken over by housing tracts and other developments,” the guide reads. “California gnatcatchers live in coastal sage scrub, a low shrubby habitat that is also home to other specialized animals and plants.”

Its diet consists mostly of insects. It may eat small berries at times.