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La Jolla planners narrowly back ‘Welcome to La Jolla’ sign but hope for involvement from more service groups

This proposed "Welcome to La Jolla" sign would be at the triangular median at La Jolla Shores Drive and Torrey Pines Road.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

Despite concerns about maintenance and insufficient representation from area service groups, the La Jolla Community Planning Association narrowly voted July 7 to support a proposed “Welcome to La Jolla” sign.

The sign got unanimous support from the La Jolla Shores Association board in May and the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board in June.

The sign, intended for the triangular median at the intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and Torrey Pines Road, was presented by local architect and urbanist Trace Wilson, a member of LJCPA’s Village Visioning Committee.

The median is one of several at “The Throat” — the area of La Jolla Parkway and Torrey Pines Road — where maintenance is funded by gas taxes.

The northwest triangle — dubbed the “Rotary Triangle” because the Rotary Club of La Jolla donated $17,000 to the city of San Diego for maintenance in 2018 — is “anemic,” said Rotary immediate past president Cindy Goodman. She cited empty spaces where plants had died, were removed and never replaced.

The concept for the welcome sign, which has gone through several iterations, features “Welcome to La Jolla California” on a green screen of vegetation with the Rotary emblem in the lower left corner. The sign would be fronted by bougainvillea plants, flanked by blooming trees and illuminated at night.

“We looked at a number of different concepts and wanted to have a healthy debate about the design,” Wilson said.

Jacaranda trees were being considered given that The Village Garden Club of La Jolla often donates and plants them as part of the club’s mission, but “it doesn’t have to be jacarandas, just something blooming and something relevant to La Jolla,” Wilson said.

“This is a very important piece of pride in La Jolla. … I have always hoped for a sign that welcomes not only locals but tourists and those coming here for the first time,” he added.

The Rotary emblem would be included because the intent is for funding to come from local and regional Rotary clubs.

“We are hoping to do this as a Rotary project,” Goodman said. “It would be an opportunity for us to provide a service to this community, which we have wanted to do for some time, but also a branding opportunity to get the word out. Other groups in the community are very well-branded and you know them quite well. We are looking at doing this as an additional project that lets people know we care about La Jolla.”

But LJCPA trustee Jodi Rudick, who also is executive director of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, questioned whether other service groups could be included. She called the project “stellar” and said she appreciates the Rotary’s efforts to shepherd it but said that “when you go to other communities, it is not uncommon for all the service organizations to be recognized if they are part of that community.”

Trustee Tom Brady agreed that other groups should contribute and be recognized.

Goodman said she is “not opposed” to having other clubs involved but added that the Rotary Club is “looking for a branding opportunity” and there is concern that multiple emblems would be “too much to look at.”

As an alternative, she said, “I have no problem putting logos on the other side so people would see them as they are coming from The Shores or leaving The Village.”

“We are hoping to do this as a Rotary project ... that lets people know we care about La Jolla.”

— Cindy Goodman

Though many comments about the project were positive, La Jollan Sally Miller said she is against illuminating the sign and is hoping for a “less is more” approach. She also had concerns about maintenance.

Hank Woodward expressed apprehension that people would stop in front of the sign to take photos and that it would provide “a shady place for the panhandlers to take their cellphone calls.”

A motion to support the concept passed 6-5 (the vote was initially 5-5, but acting chair Bob Steck voted to break the tie).

Those opposed cited concerns about maintenance and lack of representation from other groups. ◆