Enhance La Jolla streetscape plan gets Community Planning Association approval

A rendering shows what could be done at Wall Street and Girard Avenue as part of the Enhance La Jolla streetscape plan.
A rendering shows a concept for what could be done at Wall Street and Girard Avenue as part of the Enhance La Jolla streetscape plan.
(Courtesy of Enhance La Jolla)

The Enhance La Jolla streetscape plan for The Village achieved a clean sweep of approval at local planning boards when the La Jolla Community Planning Association unanimously gave its support during its Feb. 3 meeting.

LJCPA lauded the plan as something that will “bring energy back to The Village.”

But some in attendance expressed concern about a key component.

Streetscape means the appearance or view of a street, and the Enhance La Jolla plan is a four-phase, $15 million project to renovate Girard Avenue between Silverado and Prospect streets and the area known as “The Dip” at Prospect. Planned street improvements in the public right of way include curb extensions, paving, landscaping, lighting, conversion of northbound Prospect to a public pedestrian way between Girard and Herschel avenues and converting the southbound side of Prospect in that area to two-way traffic. More than $1.5 million is already available for the project.

The plan recently got the approval of La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance Committee, Development Permit Review Committee and Traffic & Transportation Board.

The project is backed by the La Jolla Community Foundation and Enhance La Jolla, which administers the La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District. Through the MAD, Enhance La Jolla has the ability to work in the public right of way.

Applicant representative Mark Steele, founder of architectural and planning firm M.W. Steele Group, told LJCPA that the plan has two “broad phases,” the first being work on Girard Avenue and the second being The Dip.

Within those are four projects:

• Renovating the intersection of Girard Avenue and Wall Street
• Establishing a midblock crossing in the 7800 block of Girard
• Adding landscaping and pop-outs (curb extensions that help make pedestrians more visible and slow car speeds around the turn) on Girard at Silverado Street
• Creating a plaza at The Dip on Prospect Street

Plans throughout the four projects include improved landscaping, artistic elements and additional benches and lighting.

The Girard Avenue/Wall Street renovation is expected to be done first due to funding availability and approval from local boards.

“The idea is to improve the visual quality of the street but also to improve the safety for the pedestrians,” Steele said. “It encompasses landscaping and ... curb extensions to slow traffic down. It creates a new kind of plaza, which will be great for the retailers and make it a friendly place to be. There are little landscaped parklets with opportunities for public art.”

Plans are still being developed for which trees will be used, and street lighting also will be added, he said.

LJCPA trustee Mike Costello called the streetscape plan “really exciting.”

Comparing the proposal to the installation of roundabouts on La Jolla Boulevard in Bird Rock, Costello said: “With the change came a lot of apprehension of how change was going to affect [residents]. When you look back at it, no one wants to undo that plan. It brought a lot of community pride … and community focus. It brought about change, but everyone liked those changes.”

Trustee Patrick Ahern said he supports the proposal for Girard Avenue “as something that would improve pedestrian safety and create a sense of place and charm for our Village. … It is going to bring energy back to The Village.”

He compared The Dip element to the Piazza della Famiglia in San Diego’s Little Italy.

But not everyone was on board with The Dip.

Alan Viterbi, president of the owners association of the Muse residential complex at 1020 Prospect St., said no one in the building was consulted or notified about that part of the plan, which would be just across from the building. He said he supports improving the streetscape along Girard Avenue but has “serious concerns” about The Dip, particularly about safety, traffic and noise.

Though trustee Jodi Rudick said the plan is “something so beautiful and the aspirations are so commendable,” she added that nearby property owners should be “brought into the conversation.”

Steele said there is time to finalize details and address Viterbi’s concerns.

Steele said backers of the plan have been to San Diego city representatives for a preliminary review, “mostly to try to understand the permitting process for this and ask the technical questions.” He said the team is starting the design development phase “to flesh out the trees and materials.”

Once that’s done, “we will work with the city to get building permits.”

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