Police, parks and potholes: Councilman holds town hall to talk La Jolla issues
Rather than have one State of the District address to cover all that applies to the various communities in District 1 — including La Jolla — San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava has been making the rounds at town hall meetings.
La Jolla’s gathering was March 15 at the Community Center, where LaCava discussed issues relating to police and public safety, street repairs and parks while taking questions from constituents.
Recapping a March 10 meeting about “Smart Streetlights” held at the La Jolla Recreation Center, LaCava lent his support to the San Diego Police Department’s proposal to use cameras and automated license plate readers on 500 streetlights across the city as crime-fighting tools.
“They actually watch the streets in key locations,” LaCava said. “With what I’ve heard so far, it is a very good program. I’m hearing too much from those of you that are concerned about crime and why we aren’t capturing criminal behavior.”
His key question about the program, he said, is “Are the controls tight enough that they can be relied on?”
LaCava said the city’s former Smart Streetlights program — which was rolled out in 2016 for city mobility planning purposes without public input — was “a disaster” and that this plan is better because the terms and any changes would have to be reviewed by committees such as the new Privacy Advisory Board.
He said San Diego police officers do “remarkable” work and “a great job managing the resources they have very effectively.”
But referring to the 200 vacancies in the department that are funded but unfilled, LaCava said: “I not only want to get that 200 filled, I want to fill 200 more. I want to get back up to 2,400 officers. It may be a pipe dream and we may not ever get there, but that would get us back to community-oriented policing. Twenty years ago, we were a leader in the country for community-oriented policing — officers getting out of their vehicles and getting to know the people, businesses and patterns — but it’s impossible to do that now with the numbers we have.”
He said the city has been granting pay raises to try to attract more officers and said, “I’m so grateful to those that stay with [the San Diego Police Department] and make a career out of it.”
LaCava acknowledged that “there have been a lot of complaints about parks” not being maintained and bathrooms not being cleaned and said “the issue really goes to the lack of staff.”
In conversations with the mayor, he said, “we are not talking about neighborhood parks, we’re talking about shoreline parks — the parks we think of as our neighborhood parks but the rest of the city thinks of as a playground along the shore. We need to think more comprehensively about that.”
LaCava said there has been some progress, though “not enough and not fast enough.” But with the upcoming budget cycle, there will be additional funds for additional staff to maintain shoreline parks, he said.
Since assuming office in 2020, the biggest complaint LaCava gets from constituents is about the condition of the streets, he said.
“We’re not doing nearly enough about the streets. I think that is pretty obvious to everyone,” he said.
“Amen!” an audience member yelled in response.
About 19,000 potholes have been repaired across the city since Jan. 1, LaCava said, but “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were still 19,000 potholes out there … because more of them pop up all the time. We ignored maintenance for way too long and now it is much harder to catch up.”
LaCava said he is proposing a “rolling work plan” that would alert residents when pothole and other street repairs in their areas will be done.
“We’re not doing nearly enough about the streets. I think that is pretty obvious to everyone.”
— San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava
He said resurfacing of La Jolla Parkway is still expected to start this month, though ambient air temperatures must be above 50 degrees for the nighttime work to begin.
Once that is done, the next big street project in La Jolla will be resurfacing Via Capri, he said. However, that work is contingent on San Diego Gas & Electric projects being completed, he added.
“After SDG&E is done, the city is … going to tear up the street to replace sewer and water pipes,” he said. “When that is done, then Via Capri will be repaved. The city is already designing that work.”
He said he expects that project to be finished in 2024.
LaCava also spoke about the city’s Get It Done app and its effectiveness as a tool for indicating how many residents share a common concern.
Citing a recent finding that there are approximately 5,900 city streetlights in need of repair, he said: “When we hear from someone that their streetlight is out, it doesn’t register. But when you have 5,900 complaints about streetlights on the app, it says you have to do something different.”
During almost an hour of fielding questions from the audience, LaCava also addressed issues regarding Windansea Beach, homelessness, housing density, utility undergrounding, sidewalk vending in shoreline parks and more.
A few in attendance lamented La Jolla’s current state compared with decades ago — a time they argued was better in quality of life.
One resident of 40 years said the potholes, crime, perceived lack of response from the city and other problems are “breaking my heart.”
Local resident and community volunteer Joe Pitrofsky went further.
“This place is a disgrace,” he said. “The weeds on some of these roads are like driving through a forest.
“There was a big push to build new housing to make it affordable, but the bottom line is there are 350 million people living in other states and 300 million would like to live in San Diego. … I don’t understand why they can’t realize you will never make it cheap to live in San Diego because the demand is so high. You’re killing us with this increasing density.”
Pitrofksy’s comments garnered applause, but LaCava’s response prompted some to say “no” out loud.
“It is our responsibility to provide housing for everyone that moves here,” LaCava said. “We can’t stop people from moving here and we can’t stop the demand for housing. … The conundrum is that all the things we do won’t increase the housing at the pace we need.”
LaCava also has a booth the first Sunday of each month at the La Jolla Open Aire Market to field questions. His office can be reached at (619) 236-6611 or via email at email@example.com.
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