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Architect offers ideas to La Jolla board for beautification and roundabouts on ‘atrocious’ Nautilus Street

La Jolla architect Trace Wilson's concept to beautify Nautilus Street between Muirlands Drive and Fay Avenue
La Jolla architect Trace Wilson’s concept to beautify Nautilus Street would add trees and a greener median from Muirlands Drive (near the bottom of the illustration) west to Fay Avenue.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

Calling the current state of Nautilus Street “utterly atrocious,” La Jolla architect and urbanist Trace Wilson presented ideas to beautify the part of the street between Muirlands Drive and Fay Avenue at the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board’s June 16 meeting.

Nautilus’ “gorgeous sight line out to the horizon” is marred by “visual clutter,” Wilson said, and the medians are “grown over with weeds.”

“I think we can do better than that,” he said. “There’s a ton of right of way to consider, a lot of asphalt [and] a lot of property there that we can actually change, make more useful and more beautiful going into the future.”

Wilson presented several drawings showing trees planted on both sides along Nautilus and in an expanded median.

His design also included roundabouts at a few intersections along the stretch of road.

Wilson said his concept not only could beautify the street but also calm traffic and create diagonal parking around Fay and Nautilus usable by La Jolla High School students or visitors.

“We could do a roundabout at Fay [and Nautilus] that slows traffic and beautifies the intersection,” he said. “It’s a massive intersection for generally no reason.”

Wilson said his idea “greens this major asphalt corridor into a parkway. We get more drama, more shade and shadow, slower traffic. A useful right of way without so much asphalt.”

The plan would fit with Wilson’s other endeavors to beautify various La Jolla neighborhoods, he said.

Though the designs are only a concept, Wilson said the Nautilus Street beautification idea is a “labor of love, because if you don’t have a vision, then there’s no way to consider how to get it built and how to get it funded.”

T&T Board members expressed favorable opinions about the plan but raised several questions.

“I would love to see [the design] happen,” said board member Patrick Ryan, who asked Wilson to consider adding a protected bicycle lane.

Wilson said he would look into it, given the need for school buses in the area for La Jolla High and Muirlands Middle schools.

Addressing a question about cost, Wilson said: “This is a significant beautification project. … It’s curb and gutter and raised median, it’s maintenance, it’s irrigation. This will be costly.

“[But] if we don’t have a plan, how can we think about ever doing anything like this?”

Board member Nancy Warwick said: “It never even occurred to me to change Nautilus. It’s so obvious once you present it.”

Dan McCandless, who lives off Nautilus Street, said he is “very excited by this plan because of the traffic that runs through Avenida Mañana and how fast it actually goes.”

He cautioned Wilson “in regard to putting up any trees that would impede someone’s ocean view or views off the street.”

Board member Tom Brady suggested that the concept be added to the next T&T meeting as an action item “to be put on the capital improvements list for La Jolla.” Chairman Dave Abrams agreed.

Other T&T news

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board discussed San Diego's "Spaces as Places" program.
The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board discussed San Diego’s “Spaces as Places” program, designed to transition temporary outdoor spaces to permanent.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

“Spaces as Places”: T&T discussed “Spaces as Places,” a program designed by the city of San Diego to transition “temporary pandemic-response outdoor spaces to permanent spaces that safely bring people together to dine, play and gather,” according to the program’s website.

Abrams said he wants the board to discuss and track the program as it moves forward “because it does have a traffic element. … It takes up parking, these spaces, and affects traffic flow.”

“I’m a little suspicious about this endeavor,” said La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane. She said the city is asking businesses that erected temporary outdoor structures for dining or other purposes on public streets to convert those structures to permanent spaces.

Noting that when the city vacates a portion of a street, it goes to the adjacent property owner, she said, “If a developer chooses to develop adjacent land in the street, instead of paying into a development impact fee fund, they get out of that requirement,” which would leave the city without funding for parks development.

“Are these going to be truly public spaces or are they going to be serving the residents and the businesses within the building itself?” Kane said.

“I do think outdoor dining is a phenomenal idea,” Ryan said, “but … if [the street] becomes property of the business, essentially they are getting something for nothing. … [It’s] a little scary to me.”

Warwick added questions about the impact of a permanent loss of parking on retail businesses. “If [my bookstore] was next to a restaurant that took a lot of parking, it would definitely threaten the survival of my business,” she said.

Steve Hadley, representing City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said the program will not go before the council until October. The city currently is gathering input, with “probably a lot of refinement that’s going to come to this,” he said.

Hadley said he would convey messages to LaCava or invite him to a future meeting when the program “begins to become a little more defined.”

Abrams said T&T will “take action when and as appropriate.”

To fill out a city survey about post-pandemic outdoor uses, visit sandiego.gov/spaces-as-places.

T&T officer nominations: The board takes nominations yearly in June for its slate of officers, and Brady nominated current Vice Chairman Brian Earley for chairman, current Chairman Abrams for vice chairman, and current secretary Donna Aprea to remain in that role.

The nominations were accepted, and a formal election will be held at the next meeting. The officer term is one year.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 21. For more information, email manana@san.rr.com.