Noise, pollution and accident worries reactivate discussion of extending La Jolla Parkway sound wall

Some residents of Ardath Road are pushing for this sound wall on La Jolla Parkway to be extended.
Some residents of Ardath Road are pushing for this sound wall on La Jolla Parkway to be extended to block noise and pollution from passing vehicles and help prevent accidents.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Residents of nearby Ardath Road support the idea, but funding availability, project questions and other needs make it a ‘low priority,’ San Diego councilman says.


Accidents and near misses in recent years between cars and pedestrians, coupled with vehicle noise and dead vegetation, have reignited a conversation about extending the sound wall that divides a portion of La Jolla Parkway from Ardath Road.

However, because of funding issues and other priorities, such a project probably isn’t in the cards anytime soon, San Diego city officials say.

Residents told the La Jolla Light that in recent years, sprinkler problems have caused some of the vegetation that divides a portion of the roads to die. As a result, large gaps have resulted in increased noise and pollution from the busy parkway and more near misses with cars, residents say.

Kyle Swafford, who lives on Ardath Road, said that in late July, “our family of six [two adults and four children younger than 10] and two dogs walked to The Shores to go out to dinner. We walked slowly and single file.” A car came around the corner and “one of our dogs was missed by ... centimeters,” he said.

He added that a sign in the middle of the sidewalk “has to be replaced, sometimes several times per year, from being struck by vehicles,” and he called the interaction between pedestrians and cars “a real-life twisted game of Frogger.”

Rayan Hourani, who has lived on Ardath for 10 years and was a proponent of the sound wall extension when it was discussed in the 2010s, said an early-morning accident in October 2020 “due to speeding” resulted in guardrails and landscaping being “severely damaged.”

Speeding along La Jolla Parkway has “been a constant,” but missing vegetation has led to increased noise and pollution in the neighborhood from passing cars, he said.

Swafford said a contractor for the city of San Diego told him the vegetation was dying as a result of a series of mishaps.

“During one of the last droughts, the city shut off the water and the plants started dying,” Swafford said. “It took a couple of years, but the water was turned back on. But ... it was leaking everywhere and so they had to do some repairs. While they did some fixes, another water line broke and it had to be repaired.”

San Diego spokesman Benny Cartwright said city staff assessed the area and found there was an irrigation leak caused by debris that got inside one of the valves when the shut-off valve had been replaced. That caused the valve to not shut off completely, causing it to leak.

An irrigation specialist visited the site and cleared all the debris inside the valve, Cartwright said.

City staff is reviewing the situation and will make any improvements necessary, he said.

Gaps caused by dead vegetation that had served to separate houses on Ardath Road from cars on La Jolla Parkway
Gaps caused by dead vegetation that had served to separate houses on Ardath Road from cars on La Jolla Parkway have let additional noise and pollution into the neighborhood, residents say.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The idea of replacing the dead vegetation has been broached, but City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said it may depend on the maintenance budget. “The city won’t want to plant [vegetation] that it cannot maintain,” he said.

Thus, some residents have pleaded for extension of the sound wall there since the mid-2010s, given that it could block noise and pollution and increase pedestrian safety because vehicles couldn’t tear through it like they could vegetation.

“It should have been done already,” Swafford said.

The wall is on the south side of La Jolla Parkway where the parkway becomes Torrey Pines Road.

In 2015, the idea gained support from the La Jolla Town Council and the La Jolla Shores Association (which asked the city to add the sound wall to its list of capital improvement projects). But when the issue got to La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation Board, too many questions were raised for the board to vote.

Because Traffic & Transportation didn’t vote on it, the matter did not go before the La Jolla Community Planning Association as an action item.

Plants that divide Ardath Road from La Jolla Parkway have gaps that residents would like to see resolved.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

After receiving no response from the city about the proposal’s feasibility, advocates of the wall extension took their concerns to the Community Planning Association in fall 2017.

To applause from the audience, LJCPA voted to ask the city to investigate solutions to improve safety, mitigate sound and return with a plan.

City officials maintained at the time that neither money nor staff was available to study the feasibility of extending the sound wall. But a representative of then-Councilwoman Barbara Bry told LJCPA at its November meeting that year that Bry’s office was partnering with the mayor’s office to request that the viability of extending the sound wall be investigated.

LaCava said this week that though he couldn’t speak to the result of that investigation, city engineers have visited the site and “it doesn’t meet any criteria that would cause the city to fund this project [such as a high number of accidents].”

“It is feasible to extend the existing wall, but the question is how it would be done,” LaCava said. “Given the city’s backlog of infrastructure projects, this would not rise up to the top of the list. It would be a low priority, even among La Jolla’s infrastructure needs, let alone the city’s.”

In addition, cost and project specifications, such as how far the wall could be extended, have not been determined, so the city wouldn’t know how much to budget for it, he said. ◆