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La Jolla community planners approve belvedere project at Windansea

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

After multiple local hearings over several months, plans for a controversial belvedere shade structure at Windansea Beach got support from the La Jolla Community Planning Association on April 1.

The 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, largely with a donation from La Jollan Tom Morgan. The gazebo 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.

The concept was approved by the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee in 2018 and La Jolla Parks & Beaches in 2020, with more detailed plans approved by the DPR in February. A lengthy hearing also was held in January at a Parks & Beaches meeting, but a vote was not taken.

Friends of Windansea member and landscape architect Jim Neri said FOW formed in 1997 “to protect, enhance and restore Windansea Beach and preserve the beauty there. What we are seeing today, people have loved this beach to death and are blazing new trails and are creating more and more erosion. This project seeks to address the erosion we are seeing, and replace the belvedere.”

Though they are not formally designated as historic, he argued that the belvederes are “part of the historical fabric” of La Jolla.

Jim Neri presents plans to replace a belvedere at Windansea Beach during a La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting in December 2018.
Jim Neri, a landscape architect and Friends of Windansea member, presents plans to replace a belvedere at Windansea Beach during a La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting in December 2018. He says belvederes are “part of the historical fabric” of La Jolla.
(File)

Andrea Rosati, representing the Preserve Windansea Beach Association and speaking for opponents of the project, argued that the proposed belvedere “violates community plan policies regarding open space, visual resources and sensitive bluff protection.”

She also argued that construction of the belvedere would affect sensitive species that live in the area.

“The residents I represent are very concerned with encouraging criminal behavior with a new sheltered structure,” Rosati said, submitting 2019-20 crime statistics for the area. “Significant vandalism already occurs, the narrow sidewalk already pushes pedestrians into the street and a belvedere at the sidewalk’s edge will only exacerbate this problem. Preserve Windansea is supportive of a long-range plan to enhance and preserve the wild beauty of the beach. … The plan should go forward without the inclusion of the belvedere.”

During public comments after the formal presentations, Friends of Windansea member Melinda Merryweather, a longtime advocate for the project, said the belvedere is “not a view blocker” because it is “55 percent open.”

She added that “this is a public beach, not a private beach.”

Barber Tract resident Gordy Dunfee said he also was in favor of the project. “If you look at the other belvederes, none of the [concerns raised] happens there. We must preserve that little bit of coastal historic architecture.”

A pad on Neptune Place near Rosemont Street is pictured in 2018 where a 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)

Windansea resident Jim Best countered that “there are safety concerns that have been stated here. … You will be, as trustees, irresponsible if you vote for this.”

Kate Woods said the area is in “terrible disrepair” and questioned the extent to which Friends of Windansea had cared for the area. She said the trustees would look “foolish” if they voted for the belvedere.

Community Planning Association and DPR trustee Greg Jackson, who cast the lone vote against the project at DPR, said he has always been “of two minds” about the plan. “This struck me from the beginning as two projects being lumped together. ... I’m not offended by [the belvedere], but I’m not drawn to it. Whereas the repairs that are needed along the walkways need to be done to deal with erosion and ought to be a public project.”

LJCPA president and DPR trustee Diane Kane said that while a publicly executed master plan is called for, funding is not available. “At this point we have the money for part of that, and I would suggest we take advantage of that opportunity because people are being generous with their money.”

A motion for LJCPA to ratify the DPR findings and thus support the project passed 13-3, with trustees Jackson, Larry Davidson and Nancy Manno in opposition. Davidson had concerns with the private funding and questions about maintenance. Manno opposed without comment.

Work will begin once the city of San Diego approves the application to construct the belvedere, Neri said. ◆