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Development and traffic planners don’t vote on Cuvier Street vacation proposal and ask applicants to return

The preliminary proposed site plan for the La Jolla Recreation Center, as announced in February.
The preliminary proposed site plan for the La Jolla Recreation Center, as announced in February, with sections A and B documenting the new facilities in the planned vacated Cuvier Street space.
(Courtesy)

A proposal to vacate part of Cuvier Street to accommodate an expansion of the La Jolla Recreation Center failed to garner a vote at either the April 20 La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee or April 21 La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board meetings. Trustees from both boards asked the applicants to return to future meetings with more information.

The overall plans were approved by all of La Jolla’s community planning groups, but earlier this year, the Visioning Committee of the Community Recreation Group applied with the city to vacate Cuvier Street between Prospect Street and The Bishop’s School so it can be used partly for additional play space for the Rec Center and partly for The Bishop’s School for a building. La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance Committee unanimously gave its support to the street vacation April 12.

In a vacation, the city of San Diego relinquishes its ownership of a public right of way or public service easement and turns it over to the adjacent property owner or owners. The requested vacation also includes the request for a lot line adjustment, splitting the Cuvier real estate widthwise instead of the usual method of drawing a line down the middle of the road.

The Rec Center would then take the frontage along Prospect Street, Visioning Committee member and La Jolla architect Trace Wilson said, with the south portion belonging to Bishop’s. In this case, should the vacation be granted, about 8,061 square feet will belong to The Bishop’s School and 11,106 will belong to the Rec Center.

New Rec Center amenities in the space would include a trellis element, a bocce court, backboard courts and open space.

During the Development Permit Review Committee meeting, La Jollan Michael Grossman cited possible problems with what is being proposed. “If it’s a playground, there has to be some noise abatement because of all the neighbors across the street,” he said. “From a security standpoint … there are homeless people that sleep on concrete now, so if there is grass it’s going to be more of a problem. And there shouldn’t be any lights there because it would affect the people living across the street.”

There also were questions raised with what The Bishop’s School would do with its portion and why a private entity was getting a part of vacated public land.

DPR trustee Diane Kane said that as adjacent property owners, the Rec Center and Bishop’s would each own the land once it is vacated by the city.

A larger-than-standard notice of application describing plans to vacate Cuvier Street faces the street.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

After hearing that Bishop’s would build “a small building” on its portion of the vacated space, DPR trustee Angeles Leira said she wanted to see exactly what would be done.

Though it has not yet been designed, Bishop’s director of facilities Brian Williams said the new building could be as large as 8,500 square feet and two stories with a terrace area. He said it likely would be an extension of the surrounding black box theater and choral classroom and could be a dance studio.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Leira said. She said La Jolla’s first library is on the Bishop’s campus and is currently visible from Cuvier Street, but with the new construction, it would be hidden.

The applicants were asked to return with more detailed plans for the pedestrian experience on Prospect Street, and more information about the library and how it would be preserved in public view.

Plans also include the restriping of Prospect Street to create diagonal parking to increase spaces from 64 existing to a proposed total of 76.

Grossman said diagonal parking would create “a hazard” in pulling out into the street with the curve of Prospect. “I think this was pushed through quickly and a lot of things weren’t taken into consideration,” he said.

Community Recreation Group member Gail Forbes said the parking increase would be a “boon” and the diagonal parking would slow speeding cars.

However, parking impacts were discussed at length during the Traffic & Transportation meeting.

The board gave the vacation conceptual approval in July, but after discussion April 21, it voted to continue the matter to May.

The diagonal parking would create “a safer way to park,” Wilson told T&T. “We learned that Prospect in this location is a speedway and that the condominiums and the Rec Center and the museum and the churches really want to slow traffic in this area.”

La Jolla resident Ira Parker said that “when people are backing up, they’re going to be backing up into speeding traffic.”

William Newbern, who lives across from the Rec Center on Prospect, said he supports the vacation of Cuvier and the addition of diagonal parking but asked where the trash containers currently on Cuvier would be relocated. He did not receive an answer.

Newbern also raised concerns about losing Cuvier as a drop-off point for Bishop’s students.

Williams said the school’s main drop-off area will “be able to absorb this increase in traffic flow.”

T&T Chairman Dave Abrams said “there seem to be some particulars that are still a little bit of a loose end in terms of our bailiwick, the traffic aspects.”

T&T board member Tom Brady moved that the group “continue this item for another month until we get some direction from DPR.” The motion passed unanimously, and the issue will be heard in May.

Learn more about when these boards meet at lajollacpa.org. Agendas are posted 72 hours in advance of the meetings. ◆