La Jollans to get more frequent updates about median maintenance at ‘The Throat’

Community leaders in La Jolla have been promised more communication from San Diego about median maintenance in "The Throat."
Community leaders in La Jolla have been promised more communication from the city of San Diego about median maintenance in “The Throat.”
(Elisabeth Frausto)

As efforts continue to maintain and beautify the medians at the intersection of La Jolla Parkway, Torrey Pines Road and Hidden Valley Road, known in La Jolla as “The Throat,” staff members of the San Diego Parks & Recreation Department’s open space division have offered more frequent communication with La Jolla residents.

Local community leaders met with city staff Dec. 21 near The Throat to receive an update on median improvements they have been working to advance since the spring, when residents began complaining to city officials about what they called poor median maintenance.

La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson said “what we’re trying to accomplish is having this entrance into La Jolla look nice and be maintained. A lot of money and thought was put into the landscaping and how this was all laid out.”

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

The deal is part of an arrangement for Aztec to maintain 84 “gas tax median areas” citywide — each containing one to 12 medians — for a total annual contract of $495,861, city spokesman Tim Graham said. A city review indicated that Aztec met performance standards during the second quarter this year in seven of 11 categories.

Community members and city representatives have completed a few walk-throughs of the medians to note problems and determine steps that might be taken.

“We’re going to get re-engaged, get everybody on the same page.”

— Erika Ferreira, San Diego Parks & Recreation Department

An Aztec representative was not present at the Dec. 21 gathering, and Aztec did not immediately respond to the La Jolla Light’s requests for comment afterward.

Regular maintenance reports that Aztec promised to the city have been filed since La Jollans including Emerson, Enhance La Jolla Chairman Ed Witt, Rotary Club of La Jolla past president Cindy Goodman and local architect Trace Wilson began asking about them.

Aztec Landscaping has a contract with San Diego to maintain and beautify the medians at "The Throat" in La Jolla.
Aztec Landscaping has a contract with San Diego to maintain and beautify the medians at “The Throat” in La Jolla.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Erika Ferreira, deputy director of Parks & Recreation’s open space division, said Dec. 21 that she would tell Emerson which weeks Aztec is scheduled to be in The Throat medians.

She also asked to attend La Jolla Shores Association meetings to “give updates, answer any questions, address any concerns and do it more on a consistent basis.”

In a new role as Parks & Recreation grounds maintenance manager, Sal Serrano has taken on oversight of the Aztec contract in recent months and is working with Ed Christensen, new district manager of the open space division, Ferreira said.

“We see this as an opportunity with fresh blood to come in, look at the contract [and] the vendor,” Ferreira said. “We’re going to get re-engaged, get everybody on the same page.”

Serrano said he has created reporting tools for Aztec to use that have eased his ability to check on the company’s progress and that he checks the sites contracted for maintenance to confirm the work.

Earlier this year, Aztec co-founder Rafael Aguilar told the Light that his crews had been working at The Throat every two weeks as specified in the contract and that he was willing to increase services if the contract were updated.

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

However, Witt said this week that he wants Aztec to be held accountable for what he called years of “not living up to the contract. … Our belief is that the city was not on top of Aztec whatsoever. And our belief is that Aztec has taken … our tax money and spent it elsewhere or wasted it or at least at a minimum didn’t perform.”

Wilson said Aztec “owes the community something to actually bring it up to speed.”

Ferreira said the city would “have a discussion” with Aztec but added that “it’s very hard to quantify” any reparations.

“I really just appreciate the dialogue that we continue to have,” Ferreira said. “We can continue to have that moving forward.” ◆