La Jolla community planners endorse waiving summer construction moratorium for Scripps Park restroom facility

A rendering depicts the Scripps Park Pavilion project, which is slated for completion in the fall.

After years of planning, community reviews, a redesign of certain features and COVID-19-related delays, the Scripps Park restroom facility needs one more thing to stay on track for fall completion: a waiver of the summer construction moratorium.

After the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group voted to write a letter to the city of San Diego supporting such a waiver in March, the La Jolla Community Planning Association followed suit at its May 6 meeting.

The project provides for a replacement “comfort station,” aka restroom facility, in Ellen Browning Scripps Park adjacent to La Jolla Cove. It also includes demolition of the previous restroom facility and installation of associated path improvements.

The new facility includes unisex toilet stalls (and more toilets than the previous facility), showers, storage space and more. During construction, there are 10 portable toilets, two that are disabled-compliant, and no showers.

The pavilion plan was introduced in January 2014 as a public-private partnership. Construction was originally expected in the first part of 2019, but an “unexpected redesign” of some features pushed the date back, according to project managers. It was pushed back again to August 2019, when the 440 expected working days began.

However, work ceased at the onset of the pandemic. When it was able to resume, city staff said steps that were to be taken consecutively would be done concurrently to make up for lost time.

Typically, development of projects in La Jolla stops in accord with the annual summer construction moratorium from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

However, to keep the project moving, Parks & Beaches President Claudia Baranowski asked the Community Planning Association to send a letter to the city supporting a waiver of the moratorium.

“We believe this waiver would enable construction activities to continue over the summer without interruption so the project can be completed in the fall of 2021,” she said.

While some LJCPA trustees said they backed the waiver and said the project “needs to get done,” trustee Mike Costello said he opposed construction taking place in La Jolla’s parks during the summer.

“The whole idea of the summer moratorium was hard-fought, and it’s for a good reason, especially in places like the parks,” Costello said. “People expect to use the parks, not just tourists but La Jollans as well. These contractors should know that the moratorium is supposed to mean something. … We would like to use our parks in summer. We have been cooped up for a year now and would like to use the parks and come to San Diego, and we should avail ourselves of people’s wishes.”

Trustee John Shannon said the construction “pinches off the sidewalk” and wondered if there was a way to “allow greater use of that area” if work was able to continue.

Others expressed hope for a compromise that would allow the most access to Scripps Park as possible while enabling work to continue.

Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava (whose District 1 includes La Jolla), said he would take the comments to the council office for consideration.

A motion to send a letter supporting the moratorium waiver passed 16-2, with Costello and Larry Davidson objecting. Davidson did not comment.

In providing additional updates on the project, Baranowski said new signage with a contractor’s name and contact information and an estimated date of completion will be installed “soon.”

After receiving comments from the community about poor maintenance of the portable toilets currently onsite, Baranowski said she contacted the project manager. Following their discussions, she said, the maintenance and cleaning schedule for the toilets will increase as summer approaches.

City crews also are to install bike racks similar to those at the Children’s Pool that read “La Jolla,” as opposed to standard city bike racks.

Other LJCPA news

Senate Bill 9 presentation coming: As part of his monthly report, Miller Saltzman, field representative for state Sen. Toni Atkins, gave a brief overview of Senate Bill 9, part of the Building Opportunities for All housing package, which would allow more homeowners to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in residential areas.

However, with limited information and a series of questions that followed, the board requested that someone with expertise in the field — if not Atkins herself — appear during a future meeting to provide more information.

The bill would, among other things, require a proposed housing development containing no more than two residential units in a single-family residential zone to be considered ministerially — without discretionary review or hearing — if the development meets certain requirements.

Picnic grove update: LJCPA also was updated on the status of a proposed “picnic grove” at Scripps Park. The board did not vote on the project.

Plans include renovating a picnic area in the park to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, upgrade the tables and benches, replace a dying tree and create a monument sign marking it as a picnic grove in honor of late La Jolla resident Selma Malk.

This Scripps Park area is slated to become a "picnic grove" as part of a renovation project.

“We are in the process of contacting the city’s Parks & Rec Department to get this project moving forward,” said LJP&B member Alexandra Corsi. “We hope the right-of-entry permit can be issued and a contractor can be brought on board.” She said she is waiting for Parks & Recreation officials to provide the next steps.

She said the project would be subject to the summer construction moratorium and likely would not start before then.

Once a permit application is filed, the project would undergo community review, including at LJCPA’s Development Permit Review subcommittee. A date for that hearing has not been scheduled.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 3, online. Learn more at ◆