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City rids La Jolla Shores sands of concession stands this year

With summertime on the way, open patches of sand at La Jolla Shores will soon become valuable real estate.

Luckily, there will be a little more open space on the beach at the Shores this summer, as the equipment rental booth that has set up shop on the sand for the past several years will be nowhere in sight.

The city of San Diego decided to not renew the concession agreement with Sun King, the company that ran the booth, when its three-year agreement came up for renewal recently. Many La Jollans have opposed the booth’s presence on the sand in past summers, and the La Jolla Shores Association recently passed a resolution asking the city not to renew the concession agreement.

“There is a commercial center in place in the Shores that provides all the services the booth was providing,” said Sherri Lightner, chair of the La Jolla Shores Association. “And there are many requirements in the land-use plan against the commercialization of parks and beaches.”

John Hudkins, director of the city’s shoreline parks and beaches, said the concession agreements, of which there are a few in the city, began in the mid-1990s and that they were intended to provide services that beachgoers could not find elsewhere. The Sun King booth at the Shores provided rentals for beach equipment, such as boogie boards, and also sold items such as suntan lotion.

Hudkins said that the commercial area in the Shores now has the ability to completely serve beachgoers’ needs. He said that when he returned to the post of director of shoreline parks and beaches in 2002, one of the first things he heard from people in the La Jolla community was that the beachfront booth was no longer necessary.

“The (concession agreements) were originally set up to provide services and support that might be of use to beachgoers that weren’t available in the immediate coastal section or community,” Hudkins said. “From the initial agreements, I always thought these types of commercial activities should never interfere with the local merchants and vendors. That was a driving force, and the community was also bothered by the setup being on the beach and the large containers associated with the activity. There’s just no need for it.”

Lightner said that the end of the concession agreement would also mean the end of the familiar sight of large trailers filled with merchandise being parked next to the lifeguard tower in the Shores.

Sun King’s concession agreement was brokered through the city’s Real Estate Assets division. The company paid a percentage of its revenue to the city for the right to use the beach. Hudkins said the money the city was getting from the deal was not enough to give the city serious pause when it decided to terminate the agreement.

“I have the general impression that the revenue was relatively insignificant compared to operational budgets and things of that nature,” Hudkins said.

The city has been scaling back on beachfront concessions throughout the city, Hudkins said. The city formerly had concession agreements with businesses in Mission Beach and Ocean Beach as well, but they all have been brought to an end.

The city turns away countless businesses seeking to use the beach every year, Hudkins said.

“Numerous vendors have always desired the opportunity to provide services on our coastline,” he said. “There’s a draw. We draw an estimated 20 million people to the beaches here (each year), so you can imagine what an opportunity it is to sell services or beach supplies. We’ve been approached by a lot of food vendors. But we’ve been very restrictive in the access, if any at all, that we’ve given. Basically all of the beach concessions have been curtailing their activities.”

Starting this summer, there will be no business taking place on the beach at La Jolla Shores at all.

“We’ve made a decision that the beach is for the use of our citizens for recreational purposes, and not for any kind of commercial purposes,” Hudkins said. “We’re very optimistic that all beach patrons can find all the services and goods they need, and we hope they will avail themselves of the local merchants.”