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Village merchants group stepping back from ‘rushed’ Wall Street closure plan

La Jolla Village Merchants Association members discuss stepping back from an initial plan for closing Wall Street.
La Jolla Village Merchants Association members on May 12 discuss stepping back from an initial plan for closing Wall Street to vehicles.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The La Jolla Village Merchants Association is taking a step back from the idea to close Wall Street to vehicles and create a pedestrian plaza, so it can fully flesh out a longer-term plan for the space.

The board’s original plan was to have a test closure with one large event around June 15, when the state is slated to lift the tier system of COVID-19-related restrictions and reopen fully. Now it is leaning toward a recurring event that would justify a longer closure of the street.

An ongoing discussion about Puesto La Jolla’s recent application to extend its use of parking spaces on Wall Street for outdoor dining for up to five years was taken up by the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board, which ultimately decided to continue the discussion next month pending further details.

LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick and board member Andy Fotsch said they met to evaluate what it would take to close the space for the test run, which Fotsch said “seemed rushed.”

“The idea of using Wall Street as a pedestrian plaza is a phenomenal idea and it can really be used well, but we have to plan it well,” he said. “We’re back to the brainstorming stage of it. Ideas have been thrown out there for mini art festivals, a second farmers market during the week or something like that.”

He said the board needed to form a committee or appoint someone to determine what direction the board should take and which event to choose and pursue that.

“If we can have something that is a positive event, almost hearkening to the Off the Wall events that used to happen 30 years ago, it would help us show proof of concept to the community of what the pedestrian plaza could be,” Fotsch said. “But the idea is to do it and do it successfully.”

The Off the Wall events took place in the 1980s and ‘90s as a fundraiser for medical education, services and research. Wall Street would close to traffic and volunteers would erect stages for performers and game booths, and restaurants would supply the food on the last Sunday of August.

Looking to create a similar production more frequently, Rudick suggested opening LJVMA’s Marketing and Events Committee meetings to the public to generate more ideas and send a concept to the board next month.

“We need to get the word out to get people to come together and talk,” she said. “Maybe we can put together a list of ideas, find a way to get some feedback and find a way to activate The Village in a real way.”

The Marketing and Events Committee meets at 9 a.m. the fourth Tuesday of every month, currently online.

La Jolla's Wall Street is pictured before last year's onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(File)

The idea to close Wall Street to cars has been discussed on and off for years but was recently revived in conjunction with Puesto La Jolla’s plan for a “placemaking pedestrian plaza” fronting its restaurant.

Puesto management has applied for a coastal development permit that would keep the current outdoor dining area on nine Wall Street parking spaces for up to five years.

The LJVMA board voted at its April 14 meeting to send a letter to the city of San Diego supporting the placemaking project.

The plan has drawn opposition from some La Jolla residents and members of community advisory groups over the loss of parking, though others argue that the effort could be the “guinea pig” for how a larger street closure would work. ◆