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La Jolla groups seek reduced construction fencing in Scripps Park for summer

La Jolla Parks & Beaches wants construction fencing to be reduced and brought closer to the Scripps Park restroom project.
The La Jolla Parks & Beaches board voted to join the La Jolla Community Planning Association in co-authoring a letter to the city of San Diego asking that construction fencing be reduced and brought closer to the Scripps Park restroom facility that is being built.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The Parks & Beaches board is briefed on a ‘simpler’ Scripps Park picnic grove plan.

To make as much park space available to the public as possible during the summer, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board and the La Jolla Community Planning Association will co-author a letter to the city of San Diego asking that construction fencing around the Scripps Park restroom project be reduced and brought closer to the facility.

LJP&B voted unanimously at its May 24 meeting to support sending the letter. Key points include asking the city to expedite completion of an in-park sidewalk between Coast Boulevard and the Bridge Club, remove the fencing adjacent to the Bridge Club and reduce the footprint of the construction fencing, open the Bridge Club and adjacent facilities and widen the usable area of the sidewalk overlooking La Jolla Cove.

The project under construction 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.

Work ceased at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. When it was able to resume, city staff said steps that were to be taken consecutively would instead be done concurrently to make up for lost time.

Both LJP&B and LJCPA supported a waiver of the La Jolla summer construction moratorium, which directs that all construction cease between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The city will work through the summer to complete the project, with expected completion in mid-November.

An overview of the Scripps Park restroom facility construction, as shown to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group.
An overview of the Scripps Park restroom facility construction, as shown to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group during its May 24 meeting.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

However, concerns were raised as to how to provide as much park space and public access as possible during construction.

LJP&B member Bob Evans said there are two sidewalks in question, one on Coast Boulevard, which was poured the day of the meeting, and a pathway set to be poured imminently. With the pathway material poured, the fencing could be moved, he said.

Fellow board member Patrick Ahern said the current fencing “blocks a lot of views” and “reduces access.” He showed photos of the original fencing much closer to the facility compared with the existing fencing. He said the expanded fencing was put in place to accommodate an unexpected plumbing issue, but that phase is complete.

Now the extra space is used for staging materials and parking cars.

“We’d like to be able to use our park again, open it up, open up the views and the access,” Ahern said.

In discussing whether LJP&B should co-author a letter or draft its own, LJCPA President Diane Kane said, “The thinking was that it would be a stronger message if both organizations partnered together on the request.”

The Parks & Beaches board voted to draft a letter with LJCPA to the mayor and other appropriate city officials asking for the reduced construction fence footprint “to allow more of the park features to be used” in the summer.

Other LJP&B news

Scripps Park picnic grove: The board also was briefed on the status of a picnic grove proposed for Scripps Park and ratified paying Neri Landscape Architecture $3,493 for designs and other documentation, which will be submitted to the city. The bulk of the payment came from money donated for the project.

LJP&B member Alexandra Corsi said the proposal was simplified from its previous review.

Original plans included renovating a picnic area in the park to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, upgrading the tables and benches, replacing a dying tree and creating a monument sign marking it as a picnic grove in honor of late La Jolla resident Selma Malk.

“What we have right now is ... relocating the existing tables and improving access, but no entry monument and no longer planting eight new trees, because it would impact the view corridor,” Corsi said. “There is one tree that is dying and would be replaced in kind. This project became simpler and more appealing.”

She said meetings with city planners are being scheduled, likely for sometime in June. As such, no work would begin before Labor Day, in accord with the summer construction moratorium.

Further, when applications are submitted to the city, they must go before La Jolla review boards such as the Development Permit Review Committee for approval.

Fay Avenue homeless encampments: Steve Hadley, field representative for City Councilman Joe LaCava, said during his monthly report that the city was taking steps to remove and deter homeless encampments on the hillside next to La Jolla’s Fay Avenue Bike Path.

“There are two major [encampments] and several offshoots,” Hadley said. “We are working ... to determine which parts of the hillside are city property and which are private property so the city can come in and clean ... and hopefully discourage if not prevent [the camps]. Some of these camps pose a fire hazard, as well as litter and destruction of vegetation.”

Additional updates will be provided as they become available.

Vegetation plan: Though it did not vote, the board heard a request from the Sierra Club Seal Society of San Diego to have the city revegetate a bluffside area of Boomer Beach to deter people from using makeshift paths. Docent Robyn Davidoff said La Jolla Cove visitors are “climbing over a wall near the Bridge Club and creating a path and eroding the cliffs there” and are “climbing over to see the sea lions” that rest there.

She said that in informal studies, docents counted “1,000 people in just eight hours” using this “dangerous” access.

She said the Sierra Club wants the city Parks & Recreation Department to carry out a habitat restoration plan to direct people to the stairs and actual beach access, and asked for a letter to the city recommending such a plan.

However, LJP&B member Ann Dynes cautioned: “Something we have learned in this organization for the last decade is that asking the city to do things that cost money, let alone in these times, is not easy. Yes, we have had success stories, but I would like to think, if the motion is to write a letter, we would get some idea as to how the city would protect that vegetation and keep people from climbing over that wall and why the city would prioritize that request over the other things it has going.”

Fellow board member Jane Reldan said it would be “more palatable” to the city if the Seal Society were to partially fund the project.

While generally supporting the idea, the board asked for a draft proposal and/or letter and more information before voting.

Next meeting: La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, June 28, online. Learn more at lajollaparksbeaches.org.