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La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee hears Windansea gazebo proposal but doesn’t vote

Two belvederes are pictured on the ocean side of Scripps Park in La Jolla. A similar structure is planned for Windansea.
Two belvederes are pictured on the ocean side of Scripps Park in La Jolla. A similar structure is planned for Windansea at Neptune Place near Rosemont Street.
(File)

A project to put a belvedere at Windansea, facing public outcry lately, went before the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee during its Feb. 9 meeting. The board had a preliminary hearing on the project and did not vote.

The proposal is slated to return at a future DPR meeting, possibly Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The public-private project would build a belvedere (also known as a gazebo) at Neptune Place near Rosemont Street as part of a broader list of planned improvements between Westbourne Street and Palomar Avenue, including better path delineation and repairs to the beach stairs and post-and-chain barriers. It is to be funded by Friends of Windansea.

The belvedere would be similar to others that line the La Jolla coastline. It would be constructed from a historically accurate wood that can withstand ocean-air conditions. It would be about 9 feet tall, 10 feet long and 6 feet wide.

The project has been touted as a replacement of a previous gazebo that is believed to have been torn down in an act of vandalism. An article in the La Jolla Light on Oct. 7, 1982, reported that police said “it appeared that chains attached to a vehicle were used to haul down the public structure. The shack was popular with beach visitors who could sit inside and enjoy the scenic views. However, some nearby residents say the shack was a nuisance and was troublesome for the neighborhood.”

The article stated that lifeguards said there were plans for replacement, subject to funding availability.

Landscape architect and Friends of Windansea member Jim Neri said that in 1983, the La Jolla Town Council approved reconstruction.

The city of San Diego “felt the $18,000 price tag was too high and didn’t come up with the money to replace it,” Neri said. “Now Friends of Windansea is willing to do so.”

The belvedere probably will now cost $24,000, Neri told the Light on Feb. 11.

Conceptual plans were approved by DPR in 2018 and by La Jolla Parks & Beaches in 2020.

Neri said Friends of Windansea formed in 1997 because “we noticed there was a lot of erosion and deferred maintenance at Windansea. … We thought we could do something.”

Since its formation, the group has provided funding to install benches, upgrade the parking lot and build and replace coastal access stairs and has maintained those improvements with private donations.

Neri said La Jolla’s belvederes are “part of the community; it represents our culture.” The Windansea belvedere “deserves to be rebuilt in order to give to our descendants what our forebearers gave to us,” he said.

During the meeting’s public comment period for the project, beach access advocate and Friends of Windansea member Melinda Merryweather called the gazebo “an amazing piece of La Jolla’s history and character … and a place for much-needed shade.”

Others also spoke in favor of the project, but several nearby residents attended to speak out against it.

Kate Woods said it was a “shock” to residents when the project notice was distributed in January. “This is a residential area; this is what I feel is so special, it’s not like La Jolla’s other commercial beaches,” she said. “We have been trying to keep it the small local beach, a natural beach … that doesn’t have buildings on it.”

She said construction of the belvedere would disrupt an environmentally sensitive bluff and provide a shelter for homeless people and a place for others to “drink and smoke pot.”

La Jolla resident Suzie Piegza said she’s in favor of the barrier work and erosion control but that the gazebo would “take away from the natural beauty and look of the bluffs.” She suggested “some attention be drawn to the Windansea pumphouse, which is in ill repair,” instead of replacing the gazebo.

Area homeowner Suzanne Baracchini said she launched a petition against the project. “Within 48 hours we received close to 500 signatures. … We will continue to promote this until we are successful in shutting this project down,” she said.

Responding to some of the comments, DPR trustee Diane Kane said she was “mystified” by the sudden public concern about the belvedere, “which seems small and light and not nearly as threatening as what is being presented here.”

She added that the area is “a public beach; this is not a private beach” and asked for crime statistics to back what some of the residents were saying.

Trustee Mike Costello applauded the design and the fact that it would be privately funded. He also said the belvedere would prevent people from using unofficial paths and contributing to erosion.

Trustee Angeles Leira called belvederes “a mark of La Jolla” and said “the project needs to be done.” ◆