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‘No pride’: La Jollans lament state of medians at ‘The Throat,’ blaming poor maintenance

An April 25 visit to "The Throat" in La Jolla revealed large dead Pride of Madeira plants and more.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Landscape maintenance contractor for the city of San Diego says the medians would look much better if it could visit more than every two weeks, as its contract specifies.

Amid complaints from La Jolla groups about untended medians at the intersection of La Jolla Parkway, Torrey Pines Road and Hidden Valley Road — known as “The Throat” — the landscaping company responsible for maintenance there asserts it’s been fulfilling its contract with the city of San Diego.

Aztec Landscaping, based in Lemon Grove, has a $41,000 annual contract with the city to maintain several medians at The Throat. The maintenance is paid for by gas taxes.

One of the medians is a triangle for which local Rotarians made a one-time $17,000 donation for landscaping in 2018.

The portions of "The Throat" area indicated in red are where La Jolla community leaders say medians need relandscaping.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

The Aztec contract states the company will inspect irrigation, remove litter and weeds, and prune shrubs and ground cover every two weeks.

It also says the company will “replace plant material damaged or killed due to contractors’ negligence.”

Ed Witt, president of Enhance La Jolla, which manages The Village Maintenance Assessment District, said he has observed no work happening at The Throat over the past several weeks.

Cindy Goodman, Trace Wilson, Ed Witt and Janie Emerson visit medians at "The Throat" on April 25.
Rotary Club of La Jolla President Cindy Goodman, local architect Trace Wilson, Enhance La Jolla President Ed Witt and La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson (from left) visit medians at “The Throat” on April 25 to observe bald patches and dead plants.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

“The Throat is in pretty bad shape; it looks horrible,” Witt said at the April 21 Enhance La Jolla meeting. “Even though it is outside [the boundaries of] the MAD, The Throat is very important. It’s our front door. It’s the opening to The Village and it is not representative of what it should be, especially for what the city is paying.”

He is part of a working group formed with the La Jolla Shores Association to look into sprucing up the medians.

The Throat is within LJSA’s boundaries, and Enhance La Jolla has authority to enhance city-provided services in the public right of way, including landscape maintenance, street and sidewalk cleaning, litter and graffiti abatement and additional trash collection.

During an April 25 walk along the gas-tax medians in The Throat, a group including Steve Hadley (representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla), LJSA President Janie Emerson, Witt, Rotary Club of La Jolla President Cindy Goodman and La Jolla architect and urbanist Trace Wilson observed broken sprinkler pipes, large dead bushes, dry brush and layers of dry pine needles.

There also were patches of dirt with no plants.

“I don’t believe Aztec has been living up to the contract at all,” Witt said.

Emerson said the large amount of dead Pride of Madeira plants couldn’t die in the two weeks between regular contracted maintenance visits.

“There’s no pride here,” she said.

The dead brush in "The Throat" is more than what can die in two weeks between contracted maintenance visits, La Jollans say.
The amount of dead brush in “The Throat” is more than what can die in two weeks between regular contracted maintenance visits, La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson says.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

On April 27, Aztec Landscaping co-founder Rafael Aguilar said his crews are onsite as specified but said they are limited by the terms of the contract with the city. He said he is willing to increase services should the contract be updated.

“We are out there every two weeks,” he said. “But this is not a high-priority location. If any level of maintenance is to be increased or more intensive landscaping added, the city would have to give us a new scope or new contract specs based on what the community wants.”

Aguilar said the perception that Aztec is not there as often as the contract requires is based on the litter that collects due to the thousands of cars that pass through The Throat each day and the speed at which certain plants grow in the La Jolla climate.

“If someone drops a piece of litter the day after we leave, it will be there until we revisit the site,” he said. “And weeds can grow a couple of inches a day with the rains and sun we have.”

If the city increased the frequency with which Aztec is able to be at the site, the “result would be a better-looking median,” Aguilar said.

“There are contracts we have with prime locations where we go every day or three times a week, and that is going to look a lot different from a location visited every two weeks.”

City spokesman Tim Graham did not respond to requests for comment.

On April 28, a crew from Aztec was observed working on The Throat medians. Later that day, a large pile of dead brush was surrounded by cones and caution tape and remained into the morning of April 29.

Wilson said the pile “proves no maintenance has occurred for a very long time.”

A pile of brush April 29 proves a lack of regular maintenance at "The Throat," according to La Jolla architect Trace Wilson.
A pile of dead brush April 29 proves a lack of regular maintenance at “The Throat,” according to La Jolla architect Trace Wilson.
(Trace Wilson)

Witt said “the city has to get some money back” from Aztec and purchase new plants for the medians.

“This is a very beautiful spot,” Witt said. “There were a lot of beautiful plants here. And to abuse this is a crime. … Shame on the city for allowing this to happen.” ◆