Dentist donates $25 thousand for palms

Plan will provide young trees for Scripps Park

Daniel Weinberg, the city’s director of Major Gifts & Philanthropy Planning, Department of Finance, Office of the Mayor, told the La Jolla Town Council at its July 10 monthly meeting that 94-year-old retired dentist Dr. George Gerroldette has generously offered to give $25,000 for a specific project at La Jolla’s centerpiece Scripps Park.

“He’s (Gerroldette’s) spent most of his life in this community and has offered a donation intended to help sustain the beauty of Scripps Park by providing funds to put in new trees,” said Weinberg. “Some of those trees are now 50 years old and in their very last stage.”

The advisory body voted in favor of a proposal to use the money for the beautification of Scripps Park.

Weinberg noted Gerroldette’s wife, Billie, died recently, and he wanted to do something special to memorialize her. “His love for Billie was extraordinary,” pointed out Weinberg. “Billie loved the tall palm trees (in Scripps Park) and during her lifetime she would push him (Gerroldette) to do something to make sure that the tall palms never go away, and she passed away before she could have her dream realized.”

Gerroldette made a presentation to the town council’s Beaches and Parks Committee, offering to give $25,000 toward the tree-restoration effort.

Patrick Ahern, a member of the town council’s Parks & Beaches Committee who is also actively involved in drafting the Scripps Park Master Plan, a long-term blueprint for future Scripps Park development, noted Gerroldette’s donation will go toward purchase of about 30 Mexican fan palms. “We’re thrilled about the donation,” said Ahern. “Most of these trees in Scripps Park are 80 years old.”

Ahern said the notion is to buy 10-foot palms and plant them in-between the existing mature tall palm trees which are a signature plant in Scripps Park, and gradually replace the old palm trees. “Our concern was that if you plant these trees, you might just block some views,” he said. “But if you plant them in between existing trees, they’ll all grow up uniformly as they are today. We’ve talked it over with the city’s arborist and this is the best way to go.”

Ahern added longtime La Jolla community planner Jack Holzman has committed to buying two palm trees. “We need about eight more trees,” Ahern added.

Ahern cautioned this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something high-profile to improve Scripps Park.

“This is generating a lot of tourist revenue here in La Jolla,” he said. “This is a wonderful opportunity with us today - we almost lost it a few months ago - and I hope we accept this for future generations because we grew up with these trees.”

Town Councilman John Beaver, who cast the lone dissenting vote on the council’s Parks & Beaches Committee against accepting Gerroldette’s donation, explained his rationale for opposition.

“My concern is that there are going to be tall trees and then shorter trees that will impair the view through the park out to the ocean,” said Beaver. “I’m also concerned about the city’s commitment to maintain them. Often the city makes these verbal-type agreements, and then they cut people or transfer them and close departments, and their commitments aren’t honored.”

The town council vote was 13 in favor of accepting Gerroldette’s donation, two opposed.