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La Jollans and San Diego seek solutions to rowdy gatherings on Camino de la Costa

 Camino de la Costa viewpoint
La Jollans and San Diego city traffic engineer Gary Pence brainstormed possible solutions for rowdy gatherings at this bend on Camino de la Costa.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Amid residents’ concerns about safety at La Jolla’s Camino de la Costa viewpoint, San Diego city engineers are considering possible solutions to loud and potentially dangerous gatherings of young people that can last well into the night.

A May 11 meeting between traffic engineer Gary Pence and local residents at the viewpoint — located at the sharp bend in Camino de la Costa in the Lower Hermosa neighborhood — was requested by residents “to gain a better understanding of what’s going on,” Pence said.

Trace Wilson, one of the residents who requested the meeting, said teenagers and young adults have congregated at the bend several times a week — daily in warmer months — since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Up to 30 cars are parked there, often in red zones or on the striping in the widest part of the bend, he said. As the cars leave, they have hit and damaged traffic signs or residents’ walls, he added.

Often, cars will do “doughnuts” in the bend around people lying in the center and screaming, he said, and youths will drink and use drugs, play loud music and fight well into the night.

Last summer, the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board supported pylons — plastic reflective posts about 3 feet tall and affixed to the road — for the bend.

La Jolla's traffic board voted in 2021 to request pylons at the areas on Camino de la Costa indicated by broken white lines.
The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board voted last summer to request pylons at three areas on Camino de la Costa indicated by broken white lines in this photo illustration.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

Pence said he can address the concerns only from a traffic perspective and said pylons, though ugly, are “worth a try.”

Wilson agreed that the pylons are the quickest solution to the problem, though they’re “an eyesore.”

In addition to pylons, Pence said he could look into stenciling the words “No parking” over the stripes and add a “No parking” sign.

He said putting a median on the striping wouldn’t alleviate the issue because cars could do doughnuts around it.

Reflective pylons like these in Windansea could go on the bend at Camino de la Costa in Lower Hermosa.
Reflective pylons, like these at Neptune Place and Playa del Norte Street in Windansea, could go on the bend at Camino de la Costa in Lower Hermosa.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

During the brainstorming meeting — which also included T&T Chairman Brian Earley and Catharine Douglass, chairwoman of the La Jolla Town Council’s Public Safety Committee — Pence said a suggestion to paint more curbs in the area red to discourage parking wouldn’t work because of California Coastal Commission requirements for parking in the coastal zone.

Pence said he could consider signs restricting parking after 10 p.m., though the Coastal Commission also is averse to that.

“But if I have evidence that there’s police activity [and] safety issues related to it, then I can get it through,” he said.

“It’s not going to be an easy fix.”

Wilson said enforcement is a big issue since police are understaffed and often can’t get to the bend quickly when there’s a problem.

According to city documents, the Police Department is trying to fill 200 vacancies to reach full staffing.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria highlighted public safety investments May 5 in his proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, including an increase of $13.8 million for the city’s Police Department.

Wilson said he’s tired of texting with neighbors late into the night. “We don’t want to manage the issue,” he said. “We want our taxpayer money to solve it.”

Earley said he would check with Pence for updates for a future T&T meeting. ◆