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Cuvier Street vacation for Rec Center project gets La Jolla Community Planning Association approval

A rendering presented to the La Jolla Community Planning Association depicts the planned Recreation Center renovation.
A rendering presented to the La Jolla Community Planning Association depicts the planned Recreation Center renovation.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

After years of planning and months of community review, plans to vacate part of Cuvier Street to help make way for a La Jolla Recreation Center renovation got the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s approval during its Nov. 4 meeting online.

In a street vacation, the city of San Diego relinquishes a public right of way or public service easement and turns it over to an adjacent property owner or owners. The requested Cuvier vacation also calls for a lot-line adjustment, splitting the real estate widthwise instead of the usual method of drawing a line down the middle of the road, and a coastal development permit to remove parking spaces on Cuvier and replace them on Prospect Street by making spaces diagonal rather than parallel.

Of the land netted by the vacation, the Rec Center would get the frontage along Prospect, amounting to 11,106 square feet, according to La Jolla architect Trace Wilson, a member of the Recreation Center Visioning Committee. The south portion, 8,061 square feet, would go to The Bishop’s School.

New Rec Center amenities in the space would include a trellis, open space, a bocce court and backboard courts for practicing sports such as tennis.

The Bishop’s School has not confirmed what would be done with its portion, but it is tentatively planned to be a dance studio. Any plan would go to community review.

Nicholas Volpe has returned to his recreational roots in La Jolla, taking on the role of Recreation Center director this month.

The Cuvier proposal has been making the rounds among local community advisory groups in recent months, garnering approval from the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee, Traffic & Transportation Board and Planned District Ordinance Committee.

With questions lingering about who owns what part of Cuvier Street, the Community Planning Association did not vote during its July meeting on key parts of the proposal. The issue was not heard between the group’s July and November meetings.

In the meantime, Wilson told the La Jolla Community Recreation Group — the Rec Center’s advisory board — in September that San Diego Parks & Recreation Department Director Andy Field had confirmed that “the underlying land of Cuvier is not dedicated parkland,” meaning the vacation of the street could proceed.

Responding to concerns from some local residents that The Bishop’s School — a private institution — would benefit from the vacation of a public street, Wilson said at the Nov. 4 LJCPA meeting that the school and the Friends of La Jolla Recreation Center were drafting a memorandum of understanding.

The terms have not yet been finalized, but Wilson said The Bishop’s School would handle sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements in exchange for its share of public land.

Some LJCPA trustees said they wanted to see the MOU before casting a vote.

“I appreciate the work that has been put into this proposal, and I understand the benefits and concerns,” trustee Kathleen Neil said. “I think [the MOU outlines] a significant contribution, but I’m concerned that it hasn’t gone before the [Bishop’s and La Jolla Rec Center] boards.”

San Diego Development Services Department Director Elyse Lowe said an MOU is not required but was recommended before the plan proceeds to the Planning Commission and City Council.

Community Recreation Group Chairwoman Mary Coakley Munk called the project “the most incredible contribution to not only our community but all the people that come to use the facilities at the Rec Center. ... This is an amazing opportunity and much needed for our community. We have been able to come up with a situation that works for everybody.”

A motion that findings can be made to support the street vacation, lot-line adjustment and coastal development permit passed LJCPA 14-2, with trustees Dan Courtney and Glen Rasmussen opposed because they wanted to see the MOU first.

The plans will proceed to the Planning Commission and City Council, though a timeline has not been set.

After the meeting, Wilson called the vote “precedent-setting” and told the La Jolla Light : “It proves that ... with the right plan, La Jollans can come together for the betterment of the community. … This is an important next step for the La Jolla Rec Center renovation project. ... Knowing now that Cuvier is a part of the project helps us collect accurate costs and begin fundraising for the project in its entirety.”

Sea lion closure letter

LJCPA also affirmed its decision to send a letter to the city Parks & Recreation Department in support of keeping the access/trailhead area at Boomer Beach open during any future closures of adjacent Point La Jolla related to sea lion pupping season.

A letter was approved in October, but some edits were made since. The board also affirmed its request for the California Coastal Commission to require an environmental impact report on any future closure.

Point La Jolla, a rocky area between La Jolla Cove beach and Boomer Beach where sea lions often go on land to rest, was closed on an emergency basis for five weeks in late summer to keep people away from the sea lions. Point La Jolla also is a sea lion birthing area where the annual pupping season is recognized from June 1 to Oct. 31.

Ahead of the point’s reopening Sept. 16, City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, sent a notice to community leaders indicating the city would “follow up with a coastal development permit for [more closures in] subsequent pupping seasons.” However, he said there would be time and opportunities for public feedback. ◆