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Bird Rock council considers neighborhood monument signs for La Jolla Boulevard

This is one of the conceptual designs for Bird Rock monument signage on La Jolla Boulevard.
This is one of the conceptual designs for Bird Rock monument signage on La Jolla Boulevard. No design has been finalized or approved.
(Courtesy)

When branding La Jolla’s Bird Rock community, it makes sense that designs would include birds and rocks.

To give the neighborhood a sense of “further identity,” the Bird Rock Community Council is considering a proposal to create monument signs on either end of La Jolla Boulevard in the form of sculptures of birds perched on a rock placed in the roundabouts.

La Jolla architect Trace Wilson presented his proposal during the board’s April 6 meeting to glowing reviews. However, the Community Council did not vote, pending additional research into how the signage could be created so it follows provisions in the San Diego municipal code and does not impact line of sight for drivers and pedestrians.

Wilson said planning for the signs started a year and a half ago by members of the Vision Bird Rock working group to “create further identity” for the area. “There has been a lot of discussion of overhead signage and monument signage, and it dawned on me that, having been down on the rocks and seeing the birds that live along our coast, there was an idea we could explore,” he said.

The concept right now is a sculpture of natural rock with bronze birds — likely pelicans or cormorants — and lettering or a plate that reads “Bird Rock” or “Bird Rock, La Jolla.”

Pelicans often are featured in Bird Rock branding, such as on lamppost banners, and are the mascot for Bird Rock Elementary School. However, because cormorants also are common in the area, they are being considered as well.

“The idea is to have something not too serious but very elegant to show we are a laid-back community but we are Bird Rock. We are a community of La Jolla,” Wilson said.

Given that the project is in the conceptual phase, he is gathering feedback and there is no pricing or schedule available yet, he said.

BRCC President John Newsam said he “loved” the idea and the message of having a bird on a rock. Others called it “fabulous.”

Resident Arianna Opsvig said she favored the bookend idea to give it “a sense of defined place” and said the designs are “beautiful.”

Bird Rock Community Council members hear Trace Wilson's proposal to install monument signs on La Jolla Boulevard.
Bird Rock Community Council members hear from Trace Wilson about his proposal to install monument signs on La Jolla Boulevard.
(Courtesy)

However, there are potential limitations on the size, location and what can be on the signage.

Maintenance Assessment District representative Barbara Dunbar said the plan should make sure the line of sight is open for cars and pedestrians.

“Blocking views of drivers and pedestrians is a huge issue for safety around the roundabouts,” she said. “We have issues with whether people can see stuff and having the roundabouts run through and run over.”

Further, she advised that the municipal code might not allow neighborhood signage in the public right of way. While there are community-identifying signs in places such as University Heights and Solana Beach, those are communities and cities, not neighborhoods. She noted that La Jolla is a community within the city of San Diego and Bird Rock is a neighborhood within La Jolla.

MAD manager Matt Mangano said “there are qualifications of neighborhood, community, city that are actually bullet points in the municipal code. … It is written in black and white. I don’t want the conversation to be that the MAD is in opposition, but we have certain constraints that are not opinion, they are code.”

The code also has provisions for size requirements and what the MAD would be liable for and would have to maintain. “There are layers to this,” Mangano said.

Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Council member Joe LaCava, whose district includes La Jolla, suggested that some municipal code issues could be bypassed by not including the words “Bird Rock.”

“I typically try to refrain in my enthusiasm on these projects … but all these communities have to put their name on a sign, otherwise you don’t know the name of the community,” he said. “In Bird Rock, if you have artistically done birds sitting on a rock, you may consider just putting those there in a way that does not interfere with code provisions. I mean, birds on a rock says ‘Bird Rock,’ and with the names of the businesses, it might be an opportunity for once to just have a symbol instead of text to identify a community.”

With that in mind, BRCC would look at what is allowed in the municipal code and how it can be constructed so it would not impact line of sight.

“We should definitely move forward and see if there is a viable way to make this happen,” Newsam said.

Other BRCC news

Tree planting project: BRCC did not vote but voiced support for a project by Bird Rock Elementary School fifth-graders to replace a tree on campus that was destroyed during a storm in January. The plan would continue the tradition of fifth-graders leaving a gift to the school before they move on to middle school.

Despite not being on campus for their fifth-grade year and not getting to relax in the shade of Bird Rock Elementary School’s huge ficus tree during recess, some BRE students want to continue a tradition of leaving a gift to the school before they go on to middle school, and they’re working to plant a new tree on the playground.

Parent Laura Thompson said the ficus tree was split during the storm and the city cut it down for safety reasons. “It has been there for so long and enjoyed by so many that they thought this would be a meaningful gift to the Bird Rock community,” she said.

The Village Garden Club of La Jolla will donate the replacement, and the class will work with the city and the San Diego Unified School District to facilitate the planting.

A large ficus tree on the Bird Rock Elementary joint-use field was damaged during a storm earlier this year and was removed.
A large ficus tree on the Bird Rock Elementary School joint-use field was damaged during a storm earlier this year and was removed.
(Courtesy)

The district has an approved list of trees, and based on availability at local nurseries, the class is leaning toward a New Zealand Christmas tree. “Because they are smaller than what was there, we will likely plant two trees in a small cluster,” Thompson said. The planting ideally would be in May, she said.

The class is considering a small plaque at the base of the trees, subject to fundraising. A price for the plaque has not been determined.

Be on the lookout: Dunbar advised that with students returning to campus next week as part of the San Diego Unified School District’s return to in-person learning, Bird Rock drivers need be on the lookout for increased pedestrian presence.

“Please drive more carefully, since there will be children,” she said. “We haven’t seen that for quite some time and I think some people have gotten complacent about how they drive near the school area. You need to remember there are little people walking around. I would like to see less distracted driving in that area.”

Art contest open: High school students who created art pieces during the COVID-19 pandemic have the opportunity to submit them in a government contest that is now underway.

Jessica Brown, representing the office of U.S. Rep. Scott Peters (D-La Jolla), said those who live or go to school in Peters’ 52nd Congressional District (which includes La Jolla) can take a photo of their work and email it to RepPeters.ArtComp@mail.house.gov by 4 p.m. Friday, April 16.

“We accept a wide variety of media, and submissions can be paintings, drawings or photography,” Brown said. Winners will be announced in early May, with the work hung in the Capitol for a year. Learn more at scottpeters.house.gov/artcompetition.

Next meeting: The Bird Rock Community Council next meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, online. Learn more at birdrockcc.org. ◆