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Board OKs draft plan for Torrey Pines Park

Torrey Pines City Park, which includes La Jolla’s historic gliderport, will be redeveloped without “overdoing” it if the City Council ultimately adopts a compromise plan unanimously approved last week.

“We’ve been charged with looking at the physical plan of what this park needs to be, and from the beginning we’ve talked about what a remarkable place this city park is and how we should not overdevelop it,” said Laura Burnett of the consulting firm of Wallace Roberts & Todd.

They’ve been guiding the Torrey Pines City Park Advisory Board composed of nonmotorized aviators, environmentalists and community planners from University City, La Jolla and Del Mar through the planning process for the last year.

The plan calls for conserving the 44-acre park’s coastal bluffs and native habitat, while protecting site access for all users, especially gliderport pilots who require flight clearance.

Burnett said there is no water, sewer or electrical service there now, and none is proposed in the draft plan approved on Feb. 18. What the new plan will do, she said, is add to and enhance what already exists.

“There is about 18 acres of existing native vegetation and we will be adding an additional 18 acres of plantings, including some Torrey pines,” she said, adding all of the 565 parking spaces on the park’s unpaved bluff top will be retained.

Michelle Abella-Shon of the San Diego’s Parks and Recreation Department talked about where the approval process goes from here.

“Now we begin the review process identifying all the potential environmental impacts associated with the park draft general development plan between now and October,” she said. “Then it goes to the city of San Diego’s Park and Recreation Board before finally going to the City Council, hopefully before the end of the year.”

Abella-Shon said the plan needs to be taken to the City Council because “the city will have to identify funds” to implement the as-yet-unidentified priorities in the plan. She added those projects are likely to include constructing primitive comfort stations, landscaping and revegetation.

Feb. 18 was the final regular meeting of the Torrey Pines Park Advisory Board, a fact that didn’t please everyone.

“The advisory board should be a standing committee,” said Bob Kuczewski, representing Torrey Hawks hang gliding club. “As long as there’s a gliderport, there should be a Torrey Pines City Park Advisory Board to receive input from all user groups and stakeholders.”

Kuczewski said he was also disappointed the group forswore discussion of management issues dealing with the gliderport, arguing that ought to have been within their purview.

Advisory board member Chris Schmidt of the Sierra Club said he would have liked to have seen cost estimates for a list of priorities for park projects, but colleague Michael Stepner of the city Park & Recreation Board disagreed.

“If you start talking cost, saying we don’t want to spend more than X, you short circuit the process,” Stepner said.

At the end of the meeting it was agreed the Torrey Pines City Park Advisory Board will reconvene one more time at a future date to discuss possible priorities for park projects and how to fund them.