Plan for Bird Rock neighborhood signs is ‘moving ahead’ following approval from property owners

A rendering presented to the Bird Rock Community Council shows a possible design for neighborhood signs.
A rendering presented to the Bird Rock Community Council shows a possible design for neighborhood signs to be placed on roundabouts that bookend the business district.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The sculptures may depict pelicans or cormorants atop small boulders on La Jolla Boulevard roundabouts at both ends of the business district.


A plan for sign sculptures to mark the community of Bird Rock has the go-ahead from local property owners and is moving forward, according to proponents.

The idea is to fabricate small boulders adorned with pelicans or cormorants and possibly the words “Bird Rock” and install them on La Jolla Boulevard roundabouts that bookend the business district. The project was proposed by local architect and urbanist Trace Wilson.

“It’s taken decades from what merchants have wanted and been told no, but we’re making things happen,” said Bird Rock Community Council board member Craig Bender, owner of Bird Rock Animal Hospital and a supporter of the new signs. “Things are getting better … there is a lot to be excited about.”

The plan was introduced last year, and the Community Council got a first look at possible designs in October.

In November, a question arose about whether Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District funds could be used to help pay for the signs.

Property owners pay an assessment through the MAD for care of Bird Rock’s public spaces beyond what the city of San Diego can provide, including landscaping and litter removal. Some have said a line item for $20,000 in the fiscal 2023 MAD budget for signage could be used to help fund the sculptures.

After some debate, BRCC voted in November to send a “ballot” to property owners who pay into the MAD with a budget for the current and coming years that included the $20,000 line item for the sculptures. BRCC President Joe Terry said ballots went out in early December and were returned in favor of the budget proposal, including the sculptures.

A rendering depicts a possible neighborhood sign on La Jolla Boulevard.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The board “is supportive of subtle signage, with a large rock and small pelican or two,” Terry said, and with the approval from property owners and merchants (who had already given their support to the proposal via the Bird Rock Merchants Group), “we’re moving ahead and hope to use some of this year’s MAD budget [for the signs].”

The MAD’s current fiscal year ends in June, so BRCC would need to have bids out for a fabricator by then. Terry said installation could happen as early as this summer, but “it depends on how quickly we can finalize the plan and get it to the city.”

He said the design is still being refined and that public input would continue to be sought.

“There are still some questions about the design, how tall it is and whether it can be in the roundabout, but we are working with the city,” Terry said. “The plan is to move ahead relatively quickly, depending on what the city will let us put in, and determine whether we have enough in the MAD budget and either seek more funding or put in one now and another later.”

Grants and donations will be sought in addition to the MAD funds.

Bender previously told the La Jolla Light that merchants have been asking for some type of similar signage for many years.

“It is the No. 1 thing that merchants have asked for,” Bender said. “There are so many empty shops on [La Jolla] Boulevard, and some good ones have left because Bird Rock doesn’t have that destination feel. If Bird Rock residents want more restaurants and new businesses to fill the empty spaces, we have to create an environment where people want to come visit. ... This is what the merchants need to be successful, when they know they are actually in Bird Rock.”

However, during hearings in recent months, board member and MAD representative Barbara Dunbar questioned whether the San Diego municipal code allows for neighborhood identification signs in the public right of way. “It does say community signs are allowed, but the community is La Jolla; the neighborhood is Bird Rock,” she said.

She added that, as the MAD representative, she doesn’t “like to see anything in the MAD area.”

But her chief concern, she said, is that drivers could be distracted by the sculptures.

Dunbar declined to comment about the property owners’ approval.

The Bird Rock MAD was initiated in 2004 to assume responsibility for “maintenance of the public landscaping associated with the city-planned traffic-calming improvements along La Jolla Boulevard and nearby residential streets,” according to BRCC. The traffic measures included five landscaped roundabouts and a median along La Jolla Boulevard. ◆