Bird Rock sign sculptures to take ’12 months or more’ for design and permits

A rendering shows a possible neighborhood sign for La Jolla Boulevard roundabouts.
A rendering presented to the Bird Rock Community Council shows a possible neighborhood sign for La Jolla Boulevard roundabouts.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The installation of entrance signs marking La Jolla’s Bird Rock community may be a little further out than originally intended — possibly more than a year away.

The plans, as well as the many steps ahead, were discussed at the Bird Rock Community Council’s meeting at Bird Rock Elementary School on March 7. It was the group’s first in-person meeting in three years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea is to make 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.

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 containing 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.

With that, Terry told the La Jolla Light in February that local leaders hoped to set the plans in motion in coming months. However, at the March 7 meeting he said there are several hurdles to clear before the installation can take place.

Bird Rock Community Council President Joe Terry
Bird Rock Community Council President Joe Terry presides over the board’s first in-person meeting in three years on March 7 at Bird Rock Elementary School.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

“We’re checking with city traffic engineers to determine what the dimensions and configuration of the signs can be — how tall they can be, how wide, if there are pelicans on rocks, how they calculate height,” he said. “And we are checking with the city attorney’s staff to confirm that we can use MAD funds and other funds for the signs. We’re also developing two or three example [designs] of a natural San Diego-area rock with one or more pelicans on it and will obtain cost estimates and then share the examples and the related information with the Bird Rock community.”

Once the design and placement have the community’s approval, “we will start the process of obtaining city permits for the project,” Terry said, which can take “12 months or more” and include presentations to the La Jolla Community Planning Association and its subcommittees, as well as applicable city departments.

“So our mission as a board is to … come up with a design the community supports,” he said.

Craig Bender, who has advocated for the signs for years, told the board that “everyone is excited about the signage moving forward. [The project] is a long time coming.”

Other Bird Rock news

Happy hours return: Along with in-person meetings, BRCC Vice President Joe Parker said the board is bringing back its in-person happy hour concept to help improve Community Council membership.

“I would encourage everyone to attend and bring a friend,” he said. “It would be great to get the community together, have some fun and rebuild this organization in terms of membership and participation.”

The happy hours will feature a rotating selection of photographs depicting elements of Bird Rock’s history as part of an ongoing exhibition over the next few months, Parker said.

Details will be posted in the BRCC newsletter, which is available at

Hermosa Park: Following recent repairs at La Jolla Hermosa Park that cleared a blocked storm drain so it flows properly, recent storms have caused “considerable erosion from runoff over bare earth” at the park, resident Don Schmidt said.

He said reports were filed through the city’s Get It Done app and that crews were soon onsite to add more gravel to the area. However, the repair is a temporary fix, Schmidt said.

“A permanent fix requires considerably more work and money,” he said. “The steep slope needs to be properly regraded and the steps need to be shortened, as they are too steep. And more gravel is needed.”

MAD update: As part of a quarterly report on the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District, MAD manager Barbara Dunbar reported that immediate efforts by BRCC and the city are focused on potential trip hazards.

“It’s very important for us to document potential trip hazards, because someone could sue the city for a trip-and-fall and we don’t want them to sue the BRCC,” she said. “We are required to notify the city [of trip hazards], so we have been very diligent in doing that.”

In the past year, Enhance La Jolla (which manages the MAD for The Village) was brought into two lawsuits in trip-and-fall cases. In both incidents, the plaintiffs claimed they were injured when they fell on a public sidewalk, and they sued the city.

The city said it was Enhance La Jolla’s duty to document every trip hazard in The Village and report it, thus it bore some responsibility. Enhance La Jolla’s insurance paid $40,000 in the first lawsuit, but the group pledged to fight its involvement in the second.

Enhance La Jolla Chairman Ed Witt said in January that contract language with the city that outlines certain responsibilities may be revised. Updated information was not immediately available.

Next meeting: The Bird Rock Community Council next meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at Bird Rock Elementary School, 5371 La Jolla Hermosa Ave. ◆