Double celebration in Bird Rock this year

Let the good times roll is not just a popular saying, it’s the theme of Bird Rock’s sixth annual Taste of Bird Rock block party to be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 17 on La Jolla Boulevard between Midway Street and Camino De La Costa.

This year’s summer community celebration is doubly special: It will also mark the official opening of Bird Rock’s last three traffic-calming roundabouts, which have been months in construction. The once-busy boulevard has been transformed into a slow-paced street with roundabouts, beautifully landscaped street dividers and diagonal parking.

Event spokeswoman Simone Goldman said this year’s event is truly a community milestone. “What’s going to make this year really special is the fact that the whole town has been renovated over the past five years,” she said. “I think people are going to see the new look and feel of Bird Rock, and really start to enjoy the more intimate and family friendly setting.”

Joe LaCava, Bird Rock Community Council president, touted the environmental, as well as the aesthetic, benefits of the roundabout project. “We have received national acclaim for our new eco-friendly street design,” he said. “Bird Rock is going green, replacing thousands of feet of asphalt with groundcover, shrubs and trees. Those plants, along with other changes including reducing car speed and trading stop signs for yield signs means cleaner air.

“Bird Rock has always been family friendly and now we have complemented it with a pedestrian-oriented merchant district. This stretch of La Jolla Boulevard has become less of a thoroughfare and more of a promenade for people to stroll, shop, and dine.”

LaCava added progress is being made on the Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) that Bird Rock residents voted in, which taxes local residents and merchants to pay for installation and upkeep of roundabout landscaping improvements.

“We’re in the process of finalizing the selection of a landscape maintenance architect that we had sent out to bid,” said LaCava. “Those will be the people on the ground weeding, trimming and pruning. The Bird Rock MAD will take over maintenance for the portion of the roundabouts in front of Seahaus in the public right-of-way to the land newly installed in the neighborhood streets. We expect to take over the remainder of the boulevard between Midway and Camino de la Costa, probably on or about January.”

Landscape architect Patricia Trauth with Project Design Consultants, said the plant palate which has been installed in the center medians for the roundabout traffic circles is very similar to the Seahaus landscape that was installed a couple of years ago. It is a mixture of natives and drought-tolerant plants.

“We have tried to provide seasonal interest - that is changes in performance and color as the seasons change,” Trauth said. The western redbud is a native that will have striking magenta flowers in the spring, blue-green leaves in the summer, with the foliage turning yellow and red in the fall and in the winter, the branches are bars with the seedpods which make it very sculptural looking. The image of the landscape is a little more contemporary with the use of grasses, salvia and rockrose and informal groupings of plants.”

The roundabout traffic circles are a major component of the Bird Rock Traffic Flow Improvement Project, which dates back to the year 2000, when City Council candidate Scott Peters met with residents of Bird Rock to discuss ways to reduce speed along La Jolla Boulevard and renovate and revitalize the aging commercial area. State and regional transportation funds made up a bulk of the project’s $5.6 million budget, including a $2 million “smart growth” grant from the San Diego Association of Governments.

After extensive community involvement in design workshops and public meetings, the City Council approved the project in 2003. Construction began in 2004 on the first of five landscaped roundabouts. Work on the final roundabouts and other traffic-calming measures began in September of 2007.