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La Jolla traffic board OKs Cuvier Street vacation for Rec Center project, hears Pearl Street design concept

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board approved the proposed vacation of part of Cuvier Street, shaded in green.
The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board voted to approve the proposed vacation of part of Cuvier Street, shaded in green, along with diagonal restriping of parking spaces along Prospect Street in the La Jolla Recreation Center area.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board voted unanimously to approve a request to vacate a portion of Cuvier Street as part of a plan to renovate the La Jolla Recreation Center.

At its May 19 meeting, the board heard an update with more details about the Cuvier proposal, as requested by board members last month.

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 proposed vacation of a part of Cuvier bordering the Recreation Center and The Bishop’s School is an “important thing” for the Rec Center renovation, said architect Trace Wilson, as it will afford the center added real estate to install a bocce court, a giant chessboard and “some more kind of teenage and adult play areas,” among other amenities the community has asked for.

The land netted by the vacation would be split, with the Rec Center getting the portion fronting Prospect Street and The Bishop’s School getting the rear portion. About 8,061 square feet will belong to the school and 11,106 will belong to the Rec Center.

Parking spaces lost on Cuvier after the vacation would be replaced by changing the parking along Prospect Street from parallel spaces to diagonal.

Following feedback from the April T&T meeting, Wilson said he extended the diagonal parking plan onto La Jolla Boulevard to the “exit of The Bishop’s School.”

The Cuvier vacation will remove 77 parking spaces from the area but the restriping will add 87, for an overall increase of 10, including four disabled spaces in front of the Rec Center, Wilson said.

Restriping to diagonal parking would net 10 more parking spaces than currently exists, according to architect Trace Wilson.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

The change to diagonal parking also would serve to “slow and calm traffic,” Wilson said.

“What we’re trying to correct is a speedway from La Jolla Boulevard to Draper [Avenue],” Wilson said, “and we’re trying to create more parking supply for the Rec Center.”

La Jollan Gail Forbes said “the idea of slowing traffic along Prospect is very worthwhile,” while Dan McCandless, who takes his children to the Rec Center, said the parking plan “is absolutely necessary,” adding that cars speed along Prospect Street daily.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board approved a proposal for a roundabout near the Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial after resident Serge Issakov said traffic conditions at the intersection of La Jolla Scenic Drive South, Via Capri and Soledad Park Road are “pretty sketchy.”

Pearl Street design concept

Wilson also presented ideas to transform Pearl Street between Girard Avenue and La Jolla Boulevard as part of the working group Vision La Jolla.

Pearl Street, he said, “is not very attractive and … is dangerous,” with drivers creating hazardous conditions.

Looking east on Pearl Street from La Jolla Boulevard (foreground), this design reimagines Pearl with roundabouts and trees.
Looking east on Pearl Street from La Jolla Boulevard (in foreground), this design reimagines Pearl with roundabouts and trees.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

Wilson’s ideas involve adding roundabouts at the intersections on Pearl, along with bulb-outs, or curb extensions, at the intersections and alleyways.

The extra curb space would allow for more pedestrian movement, Wilson said, as well as provide a larger planting area for trees lining the sidewalks, creating an “urban canopy, more of a beautification.”

The entire plan, he said, would help slow traffic but keep it moving, as Pearl is “an important traffic street.”

Some participants in the meeting raised concerns that adding roundabouts would reduce Pearl Street from two lanes in each direction to one, eliminate parallel parking spaces and affect public transit times, as the Route 30 bus runs along Pearl.

Wilson said the plan is “a first pass … there’s a number of urban constraints we need to think about.”

“There’s probably a solution here that says we can keep parallel parking if we need it,” he added.

Forbes mentioned that there are no surface drains along Pearl; the street carries stormwater runoff out of The Village and down to La Jolla Boulevard. “When you start planning your bulb-outs and your roundabouts, you’re going to have to put in street drains,” Forbes said.

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane said implementing a concept like Wilson’s would provide an “excellent opportunity to correct the drainage.”

“I’m very intrigued by this concept,” Kane said. “I think the traffic circles would really help with the flow of traffic. I like the beautification; Pearl is really kind of a scuzzy-looking street.”

T&T board member Natalie Aguirre said putting roundabouts along Pearl would not “go over well in the community,” as Pearl often carries a large volume of cars that go through The Village via Torrey Pines Road.

In the virtual meeting’s chat box, T&T board member Patrick Ryan wrote that before roundabouts were installed along La Jolla Boulevard in Bird Rock, “we were all concerned that reducing to one [lane in each direction] would cause traffic jams. But in reality, south and north of Bird Rock, La Jolla Boulevard is one lane anyway. The roundabouts in Bird Rock work so well.”

La Jollan Serge Issakov wrote that “red lights clog traffic more than roundabouts do. The two lanes are primarily needed for storage at red lights, which is eliminated with roundabouts.”

Wilson asked the T&T board to help get a city traffic engineer involved. “I think that’s vital. We need traffic counts,” along with a clearer understanding of what the city will allow, he said.

“We need more data and information so we can continue design work and really dive into detail,” he added.

T&T Chairman Dave Abrams said he would take Wilson’s request to the city and ask “that they assist us with some traffic data.”

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 16. To learn more, email manana@san.rr.com.