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Councilman updates La Jolla Shores on ‘Spaces,’ repaving, ‘comfort station,’ undergrounding and more

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava addresses the La Jolla Shores Association during its Oct. 12 meeting online.
San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, addresses the La Jolla Shores Association during its Oct. 12 meeting online.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

With a long list of updates on issues important to La Jolla Shores, San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava addressed the La Jolla Shores Association during its virtual meeting Oct. 12.

‘Spaces as Places’

San Diego’s “Spaces as Places” program is expected to be considered by the California Coastal Commission at its November meeting in Monterey, said LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

The Spaces as Places initiative, which went into effect in most of the city in mid-July, establishes regulations for eating and drinking installations placed on parking spaces on city streets and other outdoor public areas and provides a process for existing temporary operations to transition to permanent. Businesses must comply with the new regulations to be granted a permit under Spaces as Places.

However, the program can’t take effect in the coastal zone — which includes most of La Jolla — until it is reviewed and certified by the Coastal Commission. That review is necessary because the ordinance requires a change to Local Coastal Programs, which serve as planning documents for coastal communities.

Some La Jolla business owners spoke earlier Oct. 12 during public comments at the Coastal Commission’s meeting in San Diego.

La Jolla Shores property and business owner Lance Peto told the commissioners that he supports the Spaces as Places program and specifically the ongoing street closure on Avenida de la Playa for outdoor restaurant dining, but he lamented that in La Jolla, the program needs Coastal Commission approval.

“We feel that Spaces as Places is an attribute to attract more tourists to the area,” said Peto, who added that he puts 250,000 people in the water annually through his kayak business. “They eat and walk down to the sand, or they go on a tour and are serviced by the restaurant. ... We hope to get Spaces as Places in front of the commission as soon as possible. It’s very important to us in La Jolla.”

Avenida de la Playa has been closed to vehicle traffic between El Paseo Grande and Calle de la Plata since July 2020, when the La Jolla Shores
Association began an outdoor dining program there in response to shutdowns of indoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic. LJSA board member Phil Wise, who has spearheaded the project since its inception, has helped the affected businesses apply for Spaces as Places.

Some residents oppose making the Avenida de la Playa closure permanent, saying it impedes access to local beaches and the boat ramp at the west end of the street.

As proponents of La Jolla Shores’ outdoor dining program await a decision from the California Coastal Commission on whether they can proceed with a permanent closure of part of Avenida de la Playa, opponents have raised concerns about beach access.

Peto told the commission that “access is not limited by the closure in any way, shape or form.”

La Jolla Shores Business Association member Darren Moore said “the community of La Jolla Shores wants to see that program grow. The outdoor dining experience enhances the beach experience. Local businesses have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on permits and plans to improve the coastline experience and stand ready to improve further when Spaces as Places is approved.”

Moore argued that the outdoor dining has “improved access to La Jolla Shores,” with local businesses experiencing “double-digit increases in guest counts and visitors, which demonstrates that our temporary street closure has brought more people to the beach without incident and should be made permanent.”

Moore noted that the commission had received a letter signed by several community groups in support of Spaces as Places and the Avenida de la Playa program.

At the La Jolla Shores Association meeting, LaCava said his office is “trying to get some background information from city staff about what the Coastal Commission may be talking about” related to Spaces as Places when it is heard.

La Jolla Parkway repaving

The first of two phases to repave La Jolla Parkway, planned and funded as part of San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s “Sexy Streets” initiative, is still scheduled to begin this fall, LaCava said.

“I’m very excited about that,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest road paving project in the whole Sexy Streets program.”

He said the repaving is scheduled in two phases to accommodate the process of the California Department of Transportation, which has purview over a small section of the parkway just before the ramps to Interstate 5 and State Route 52.

The first phase will be between Hidden Valley Road and La Jolla Scenic Drive North, LaCava said.

The second phase, between La Jolla Scenic Drive North and I-5 and SR-52, might start in the spring, he said, after the city acquires the necessary approvals and permits from Caltrans.

Kellogg Park ‘comfort station’

Work has begun to repair the shower drain at Kellogg Park's north "comfort station."
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Work to repair the shower drain at Kellogg Park’s north “comfort station” began Oct. 10 and is scheduled to be completed by mid-December, LaCava said.

The project comes after years of concern as the drain allowed shower water to run across the sidewalk toward the beach, mixing with sand to create a wet, messy hazard.

A redesign will move the drain a few feet toward the ocean, extending it around three sides of the water runoff and connecting it with an existing sand trap that runs to Camino del Oro.

In August, LJSA members expressed concern that the redesign is flawed, allowing rainwater to go into the sewer, along with the potential for sand to be caught in the drain. But LaCava’s field representative Steve Hadley indicated at the time that the city would move forward with the plan.

Utility undergrounding

The process of placing utility lines underground in La Jolla Shores is still in progress, LaCava said.

The project is scheduled for completion before the 2023 summer moratorium halts construction in beach areas as of Memorial Day. The timeline is critical to follow, LaCava said, because after the moratorium ends on Labor Day in September, the city expects to come in to replace streetlights, which can’t be done until the undergrounding is finished.

The streetlight replacement will take about a year, he said, after which street resurfacing will begin.

New crosswalks

The intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and Vallecitos is slated for a crosswalk with flashing beacons.
The intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and Vallecitos is slated for a crosswalk with flashing beacons.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

A new crosswalk with flashing pedestrian beacons at La Jolla Shores Drive and Vallecitos will be installed after the undergrounding, and subsequent road repaving, is complete, LaCava said.

LJSA requested the crosswalk after a traffic crash in June 2021 injured two children and their mother who were walking there.

In February, city spokesman Anthony Santacroce said installation would happen during the 2022-23 fiscal year, which began July 1 and runs through June.

LaCava said the crosswalk won’t be completed before the summer moratorium begins in May due to the undergrounding timeline.

LJSA board member Brian Earley, who also is chairman of the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board, expressed displeasure at “going a second summer without a crosswalk there,” citing the intersection’s usual crowds of beach-going pedestrians.

LJSA President Janie Emerson asked if the city could at least paint a crosswalk there until the project can be done in full.

Hadley said the councilman’s office would ask for that, though the city would have to repaint the crosswalk after the repaving.

LaCava said he’s grateful that “the city is really trying to do things in the right sequence” to avoid wasting time and resources, but “on the other hand, when things get stretched out like that, it gets a little frustrating. … There are cars going by, there’s pedestrians crossing there. There are more important issues than the cost of a little bit of paint.”

Crosswalks also will be added at the La Jolla Shores Drive intersections with Camino del Collado and Azul Street, with the same planned timeline, LaCava said.

Beach fires

A San Diego fire ring at La Jolla Shores
A proposal to explicitly ban wood bonfires on San Diego city beaches unless they are inside designated rings is scheduled to go to the City Council this month or next.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

A proposal to explicitly ban wood bonfires on city beaches outside designated city fire rings “is my office’s effort to provide clarity [on what is allowed],” LaCava said. He added that the proposal is scheduled to go to the City Council this month or in November.

Under the plan, the only fires allowed outside designated rings would be propane-fueled, in “one of these small propane barbecues if you want to cook up something while you’re on the beach,” LaCava said.

“The only opposition we really heard is from the entrepreneurial vendors who have created these ‘life experiences’ of beach fires,” he said.

Despite questions about their legality, a local company is continuing to offer bonfire parties at La Jolla’s Marine Street Beach, saying San Diego city employees have allowed it.

LaCava added that he’s holding firm on the proposal despite the opposition.

“We think it’s absolutely the right thing to do for public safety, for the bad actors that think it’s appropriate to dump hot coals and then bury them on the sand [where] somebody can walk over them, burning their feet,” he said.

— La Jolla Light staff writer Ashley Mackin-Solomon contributed to this report.