La Jollan who repainted stairway railings without San Diego’s OK applies to be an official city volunteer

La Jolla resident Joseph McGoldrick sits at the top of the Windansea staircase he repainted.
La Jolla resident Joseph McGoldrick sits at the top of the Windansea staircase he repainted.
(Sharon McGoldrick)

Joseph McGoldrick has more projects in mind and is going through the process to partner with the city to avoid further pushback and ‘stay in compliance.’


It looks like La Jolla resident Joseph McGoldrick isn’t quite done with his community beautification efforts — but this time, he’s doing things by the book.

After recently repainting the railings of the beach-access staircase at the end of Nautilus Street in Windansea without the city of San Diego’s consent, McGoldrick is in the process of becoming a recognized city volunteer so he can carry out other projects.

Earlier this year, McGoldrick sanded and scraped off the deteriorating paint from the stairway railings and a landing known as the “penalty box” at the top of the stairs, then recoated the handrails using commercial paint.

“It’s quite pristine, and that’s how I wanted to leave it,” he said at the time. “I wanted it to be beautiful and safe.”

Though some in the community praised the work, city spokesman Anthony Santacroce said McGoldrick should have followed city procedures to get the stairs repainted, such as contacting his City Council representative or using the city’s Get It Done app.

“Every project has things that are considered, and no matter how noble your intentions are, citizens are not following code,” Santacroce said.

Surprised by the pushback from San Diego, McGoldrick sent an email to city officials outlining the safety processes he used, such as posting orange cones and caution tape; the type of paint and equipment he used; measures he took to collect the paint chips; the number of days he spent on the work and more.

“I approach situations in a pragmatic, thoughtful manner, looking at both risks and benefits, thus minimizing the risks or eliminating them altogether, while maximizing the benefits to the end result,” he told the city.

“There is no contention about the work needing to be done,” he wrote. “It is not my intent to buck City Hall but rather stay in compliance in a timely manner. … I understand there is a need for oversight and a permitting process in maintaining continuity and quality of work on city property, but the current process is not working for the residents of San Diego.”

La Jollan Joseph McGoldrick recently repainted stairway railings that lead to Windansea Beach at the foot of Nautilus Street.
(Joseph McGoldrick)

After he completed the repainting, McGoldrick told the La Jolla Light: “I’ve used the Get It Done app and things don’t get done. I knew if it was going to get done, I had to do it. There is too much red tape and the city probably would have said no. And I did a better job than they would have done.”

Now looking to do projects in partnership with the city, McGoldrick decided to apply as a volunteer so he could paint other stairways and do other work on public property.

“I wanted to be proactive because I didn’t want to get in trouble, but there are other projects that need to be done,” he told the Light this week.

“I understand their need for compliance and safety ... and I look forward to being a compliant volunteer citizen of San Diego.”

— Joseph McGoldrick

So he sent inquiries to city Parks & Recreation Department leaders and was told the steps he needed to take to become a recognized volunteer, including filling out paperwork, learning the process for logging hours worked, completing onsite training and partnering with a ranger who will review any work plans and equipment.

“While this seems a bit cumbersome, I understand their need for compliance and safety,” McGoldrick said. “ I plan to comply, initiate and complete the projects prior to the beginning of summer, which officially starts June 21. I would like to express that the city officials I have personally dealt with have been very helpful and courteous, and I look forward to being a compliant volunteer citizen of San Diego.”

McGoldrick’s next projects are to repaint the stairway railings at Westbourne Street and Palomar Street, both in Windansea.

“Those stairs are not nearly as bad as the Nautilus ones,” he said. “The Westbourne and Palomar ones have wear and tear and need to be sanded and painted, but the Nautilus stairs were the worst.”

He said he plans to paint one side at a time to maintain public access through the process.

“I’m the type that if it needs to be done, I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it properly,” McGoldrick said. “I wanted to go this route so I didn’t get pushback. I want to be in compliance. It was the proper thing to do. I’m getting ready for summer and the stairs will be ready, too.” ◆