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Development review committee approves Windansea belvedere plans

A pad on Neptune Place near Rosemont Street is where a previous belvedere once stood.
A pad on Neptune Place near Rosemont Street is pictured in 2018 where a belvedere believed to have been torn down in an act of vandalism once stood.
(File / La Jolla Light)

Plans for a controversial belvedere shade structure at La Jolla’s Windansea Beach got support from the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee in a 6-1 vote Feb. 16.

The public-private project would build a belvedere (sometimes referred to 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. The whole project is to be funded by Friends of Windansea. The gazebo is expected to cost $24,000.

For the record:

7:13 PM, Feb. 23, 2021This article was changed to clarify that the belvedere, not the whole project, is expected to cost $24,000.

The construction has been described as replacement of a belvedere that is believed to have been torn down in an act of vandalism in 1982.

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

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

At the DPR Committee’s meetings Feb. 9 and 16, supporters and opponents of the project gave public testimony. Based on concerns raised by opponents at the Feb. 9 meeting, landscape architect and Friends of Windansea member Jim Neri presented a letter Feb. 16 from engineering geologist Robert Stroh indicating that the belvedere would not “adversely impact the existing stability of the bluff.”

But Suzanne Baracchini, representing a group called the Windansea Beach Preservation Association, argued that the proposal violates the La Jolla Community Plan in that “Windansea bluffs are a part of the sensitive coastal overlay zone, where special development regulations exist. These regulations are to protect and enhance the quality of sensitive coastal bluffs that are under the constant attack of climate change, wave erosion and foot traffic.” She cited similar regulations in the San Diego municipal code.

She also took exception to the project being called a “replacement belvedere, inferring this was once a historic structure at Windansea Beach and should be replaced and rebuilt. Our findings are that the belvedere is not a replacement but new construction. An applicant should be for new construction.”

Baracchini said at the previous meeting that she had launched a petition against the project that “within 48 hours received close to 500 signatures.”

A belvedere similar to these at Scripps Park is proposed for Windansea at Neptune Place near Rosemont Street.
(File / La Jolla Light)

Though the belvedere was not historically designated, La Jolla Historical Society historian Carol Olten said belvederes “have been an important part of the fabric of La Jolla’s beach culture since its very early days, starting in the early 1900s. We have many photographs of belvederes and people using them. I think they add a great touch of class to La Jolla. They are the only beach in San Diego with belvederes.”

Nearby residents have said the project would be an “eyesore” and attract homeless people and partyers.

Hoping to ease concerns, Neri said that “without compromising the historical look of the structure, we will remove every other vertical board on the view sides so the police or neighbors could easily see in … to see if someone is on the bench.”

During trustee comments, Angeles Leira said: “I support this project and the reconstruction of the belvedere. They are part of the cultural landscape … they are a signature of La Jolla because if you look up and down the coast, La Jolla is the only place that has them and has taken the trouble to restoring and rebuilding them.”

Trustee Greg Jackson said he was of “three or four minds” about the project and the way the community had responded to it.

He said there was “an immense amount of smoke being blown” by both sides. “The smoke has included this enormous petition campaign among the opponents that keeps getting thrown back at us. … But I spoke to someone indirectly that signed the petition who thought the petition was against gondolas being driven up and down the beach.

“On the flip side, this one has been gone for almost 40 years, and it doesn’t have some sort of specific privilege to be rebuilt.”

In the end, Jackson was the lone dissenting vote on the project.

As soon as the vote was announced, some residents announced their intention to ask for a full La Jolla Community Planning Association hearing. However, with an already full March agenda, DPR trustee and LJCPA President Diane Kane said it will likely be heard in April.

From there, it would go to the San Diego Planning Department, Planning Commission and ultimately the City Council. ◆