La Jolla Community Foundation steps up for fire pits
The La Jolla Community Foundation is willing to pay for beach fire pits in La Jolla if other donors and community foundations are willing to follow suit in their communities.
“We’re prepared to pay for the seven fire pits at La Jolla Shores,” said Trudy Armstrong, foundation manager, estimating that total annual cost at $4,550 — about $650 per ring per year.
La Jolla Shores’ seven concrete public fire pits, measuring 5 feet by 5 feet, are among 186 along the coast that have been a popular part of San Diego beach culture for decades. City officials have sought to eliminate them in Mission Bay, La Jolla Shores and Ocean Beach in 2010 to help trim approximately $120,000 per year from the city’s budget.
Phyllis Pfeiffer, chair of the La Jolla Community Foundation, an affiliate of The San Diego Foundation, said: “The fire pits have long contributed to the public’s enjoyment at La Jolla Shores. We believe that our assistance in preserving the fire pits is consistent with the Foundation’s mission to encourage civic engagement and pride through local philanthropy.”
The group seeks to enrich the environmental, social and cultural experience of La Jolla by “creating and preserving public spaces that bring people together,” said Pfeiffer, who is publisher of the La Jolla Light.
Pfeiffer emphasized that the La Jolla Community Foundation’s donation is contingent upon similar contributions to support fire pits on San Diego beaches citywide.
“The city of San Diego has made it clear that we cannot isolate our own beach community for support,” she said. “Donations must go into a central fund to support all San Diego beach fire pits.”
First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said she appreciated the great work of the La Jolla foundation and its leadership on the fire pit issue.
“We are very grateful that the La Jolla Community Foundation has generously agreed to donate for the ongoing maintenance of the fire pits at La Jolla Shores and lead the rally for fire pit preservation citywide,” she said. ‘The fire pits are such a great part of our beach experience, and I am hopeful that donors in other communities will also step forward so that the fire pits can be preserved on all our beaches.”
Bob Kelly, president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Foundation, said, “We’re hopeful that other community members help San Diego preserve the culture and enjoyment of these fire pits for generations to come.”
Joe Dicks, chairman of the La Jolla Shores Association, said the community is entirely supportive of saving fire pits, adding that the city should loosen restrictions on donors.
“We’re going to petition the City Council to allow donations for plaques on individual fire pits in an effort to raise funds, just like we do for park benches,” he said. “The city’s position on that point is not well thought out; people should be allowed to preserve, in memorium, a loved one on a fire ring.”
Following an anonymous donation last year, which funded the fire pits until June 30, 2010, the city started a fundraising campaign to raise the amount needed to ensure their inclusion in the FY 2011 budget.
The April 15 deadline for that effort has passed, but the city granted an extension since the pits are funded until the end of June, said Erin Demorest, Lightner’s La Jolla aide. “Fundraising efforts are continuing,” she added.
Hans Baumgartner, who set up an educational Web site,
www.savethefirepits.com, to raise funds to spare the fire pits last year, said losing them would be a significant loss.
If city officials decide to have the fire pits removed, it would require a permit from the California Coastal Commission, a state agency with quasi-judicial regulatory influence over land use and public access in the coastal zone. Getting such a permit would require several weeks and approval from the commission’s 12-member board.