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Private sprinkler usage at Bird Rock’s Moss Lane draws notice of violation from city

The “unobstructed public view area” of Moss Lane
The “unobstructed public view area” of Moss Lane has had overgrown vegetation removed by volunteers and decomposed granite put down to improve aesthetics.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

For being a tiny street in the middle of Bird Rock, Moss Lane has gotten a lot of attention over the years.

Bisected by Dolphin Place, the west side of Moss Lane is a paved pedestrian path leading to a coastal overlook in a public right of way between two houses and is identified as an “unobstructed public view area” in the La Jolla Community Plan.

After removing overgrown vegetation and replacing a railing over the past year, volunteers recently filed complaints with the city of San Diego in an effort to stop one of the adjacent property owners from turning on overhead sprinklers when visitors access the lane to view the ocean.

City spokesman Scott Robinson said that in coming weeks, a notice of violation will be issued to the homeowner, outlining corrective action that needs to be taken before facing fines.

“We are actually making some progress at Moss Lane with the overhead sprinklers that harass the public in the evenings as they go down and sit on the bench to enjoy the evening view,” Bird Rock resident Mary Lynn Hyde told the Bird Rock Community Council during its May 4 meeting. “It felt great to get a response from the city.”

The homeowner could not be reached for comment.

The complaint filed with the city’s code enforcement division states that in addition to the sprinklers being used as a deterrent to the public, they may contribute to increased bluff erosion.

The complaint cites concern “about damage that may be caused to the bluff by the irrigation and overwatering on the beach overlook path” and says that “plant material used on or adjacent to coastal bluffs shall be native or naturalized to minimize the need for irrigation beyond initial plant establishment. Permanent irrigation is not permitted on coastal bluffs.” It asks that the irrigation system be removed.

As part of the BRCC Coastal Overlooks Committee, Hyde has been following issues of the overlooks for years.

With Moss Lane in particular, vegetation had overgrown to the point that “you couldn’t even tell it existed from the street,” she said. And a railing that “was rusted and really dangerous” had deteriorated, causing a safety hazard.

The renovated seating area at the end of Moss Lane.
The renovated seating area at the end of Moss Lane includes an existing bench, new decomposed granite, new vegetation and a new railing. A note on the railing reads “Sorry for the construction tape — hoping to get the landscape materials dry. Thank you.”
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

“We had been working with various departments to get the railing replaced, and that went nowhere,” she said. “So finally, some volunteers replaced it, so it is no longer a safety hazard. Then the volunteers turned their attention to the vegetation. They raised money and cleared out the bushes and recently put down some decomposed granite and made it nice and open so people can use it.”

In 2017, an application was filed to vacate the eastern portion of Moss Lane across from the overlook from city ownership so the homeowners could build a fence along the walkway, citing concerns about vandalism. The application was withdrawn later that summer.

In 2019, Moss Lane was included in an inventory created to document the conditions of beach accesses and coastal overlooks and suggest improvements. The inventory was adopted by the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group later that year and submitted to the city for consideration.

At the time, recommendations included replacing rusted railing, removing all existing vegetation on the south side of the concrete walkway, removing the bougainvillea on the north side of the walkway, removing “illegal” drip irrigation in the right of way, removing tall sprinkler heads “activated when the property owner wishes to discourage use,” addressing a water intrusion issue from an adjacent property owner on the south side, “as runoff creates a soggy mess and contributes to bluff erosion,” and adding a trash can and providing regular trash pickup.

Updates will be provided at upcoming BRCC meetings. The board next meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 1, online. Learn more at birdrockcc.org. ◆