La Jolla community planners reject summer Cove construction, approve valet parking for Plaza La Jolla

By Pat Sherman

During its May 1 meeting the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) — which makes recommendations to the City of San Diego on land use matters — considered parking issues and heard details about a plan to reduce hazards from an old dump site at Pottery Canyon.

Despite trustees’ concerns about the proliferation of valet parking in La Jolla (and the resulting loss of street parking to accommodate such operations) the LJCPA approved a request to replace four street spaces in the 7800 block of Girard Avenue with a white-curbed passenger loading and valet parking zone. The zone will serve as a valet area for the new La Plaza La Jolla boutique shopping complex under construction at the intersection of Girard Avenue and Wall Street (the former Jack’s restaurant and nightclub complex).

La Jolla’s Traffic and Transportation (T&T) committee approved the request, though LJCPA trustee Fran Zimmerman pulled it from the LJCPA’s consent agenda last month for further discussion.

Representing the applicant, Sunset Parking Service, Jared Svendsen said his company has a contract to park vehicles in about 110 tandem spaces in a garage beneath the adjacent Brooks Brothers building, which also provided parking for Jack’s.

The valet service would accommodate patrons of an estimated 20 La Plaza tenants, including a third-story restaurant.

Svendsen said the valet service would improve traffic flow in the Village by getting as many as 300 cars per day off the street (during peak season) and into one of La Jolla’s under-utilized parking structures. The service would operate from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily and cost $8 per vehicle, though it would likely jump to $9 or $10 an hour if a minimum wage increase in San Diego is approved, he said.

“There’s a lot of unused spaces every day going to waste,” he said. “By giving up four spaces as a passenger loading-valet zone we’re able to constantly move vehicles off the street and put them into a garage that people wouldn’t normally find. … La Jolla’s parking problem, I believe, is that people just don’t know where it is.”

Noting that La Plaza would include sidewalk café seating on both Girard Avenue and Wall Street, attendee Sally Miller asked where valet parking would be located and whether there would be enough room left for pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Svendsen said the valet service could operate without a podium, if necessary, to occupy less sidewalk area.

LJCPA trustees Bob Collins and Nancy Manno noted that before Jack’s closed in the summer of 2009, surveillance conducted on the valet operation at that site found valets parking cars in public spaces on Girard and in the Union Bank lot, instead of the Brooks Brothers garage.

Svedsen conceded that “some folks I’m associated with” operated the valet service for Jack’s, though added, “If you ever notice something that’s not being done right with the team out there, I want to know about it; we don’t want to lose our permit.”

LJCPA First Vice-president Patrick Ahern asked if three parking spaces would offer enough room to operate the valet (Sunset initially requested six spaces when they presented at T&T).

“Ideally, it’s four, but I’ll take what I can get from the board,” Svedsen said, noting that he hopes there would be an opportunity to return and request a fourth space if needed. “We want to be flexible,” he said.

Trustees Zimmerman and Janie Emerson said the LJCPA should avoid replicating the bustling ambiance of Prospect Street, where several valet operators and sidewalk cafés already operate, and that approving the valet space could lead to similar requests from Girard Avenue businesses.

“You don’t need a passenger loading zone,” Emerson said. “One (space) is sufficient for someone to pull in and drop off a car.”

Trustee Helen Boyden suggested a Village valet plan be created or a moratorium established on valet parking to deal with the glut of requests.

After a motion to deny the passenger loading-valet zone made by Zimmerman (and seconded by Emerson) failed, a motion made by Ahern (and seconded by trustee Jim Ragsdale) to support T&T’s approval of the zone — with an added stipulation that all cars be parked in the Brooks Brothers garage — passed by a vote of 6-4-1.

Further LaPlaza delays:

Marcelle McAfee with Davlyn Investments, which is developing La Plaza La Jolla, told

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after the meeting that the project would not be finished by August, as most recently reported. The project has one potential tenant thus far — the expected restaurant — though a contract has not been signed yet, she said.

Davlyn is seeking a waiver to work through the summer construction moratorium. McAfee said the sidewalks in front of La Plaza should be repaved before the moratorium begins (on Memorial Day), and that the most dramatic aesthetic changes to the building’s exterior should take place during the next two months.

In other LJCPA news

Partial support for parking board decree:

LJCPA trustees also voted to approve, in part, a statement issued by the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board (CA&P), which was formed in 1993 to oversee a pool of fees assessed on new development during the 1980s. The money was intended to help increase access to the coast and ease traffic congestion in the Village, though it has not been spent.

During the past year, the CA&P board determined that a mandate defined in a 2002 memorandum of understanding between itself, the City of San Diego and the California Coastal Commission, which earmarked 50 percent of CA&P funds to establish a remote parking reservoir and shuttle system for employees and visitors, was “not economically sustainable.”

During the May 1 meeting, LJCPA trustees voted to support that statement, though stopped short of endorsing CA&P language recommending that the board work with the city and coastal commission to identify “parking mitigation measures that are effective and economically sustainable.” LJCPA trustee Gail Forbes said she fears such language could be interpreted to allow for the installation of parking meters in the Village.

There is about $400,000 in the CA&P fund, part of which is designated for discount employee parking passes. The CA&P board solicited public input last year on a variety of ways to use the rest of the money to fulfill its mission.

Trustee Bob Collins, who owns the Best Western Inn by the Sea on Fay Avenue, and whose family paid $19,932 in fees to the LJCPA board fund in September of 1984 told

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that after 30 years of seeing next to nothing accomplished with the fund — and part of the money lost while held in accounts by the coastal commission and city— he has filed a claim with the city for reimbursement of the fee.

Collins said some people were offered the option to pay with a promissory note or had their payment deferred (and then closed shop without paying). “They hung everybody out to dry for a long time,” he said. “I think people have been very considerate not going after the money (so far).”

Moratorium waiver denied:

Though La Jolla Parks and Beaches — a committee advising the city’s Park and Recreation Department — favored approval of a waiver allowing the city to proceed with work on the La Jolla Cove lifeguard tower through the summer construction moratorium period, LJCPA trustees denied the request.

City Project Manager Jihad Sleiman said that if crews were allowed to work through summer, the job would be complete by December 2014. If not, it wouldn’t be done until the spring 2015, he said.

Several attendees and trustees decried the length of time it took the city to start the job, and how slowly work seems to be progressing.

“I’m sick and tired of the city coming to us and asking us to vacate the moratorium because they can’t get something done,” trustee Emerson said, noting the impact summer construction has on revenue generating tourism, as well as the impression it has on visitors.

Trustee Ahern suggested the city look into incentives for contractors to finish work on time, or penalties for not completing work in a timely manner.

A motion made by Ahern (and seconded by Manno) to approve the waiver failed to garner the required votes.

Trustee Ragsdale’s motion to deny the waiver (seconded by Collins) passed by a vote of 7-3-1.

Sleiman said he would like to have completed the project “yesterday,” though dealing with regulatory agencies, various moving parts and “having to come here and plea to you and then getting a ‘no’ vote” lead to project delays. “I don’t think this decision is good for La Jolla and the lifeguards, but, so be it,” he said.

Pottery canyon work addressed:

Joel Hyatt, a senior planner with the City of San Diego’s Park and Recreation Department Open Space Division, attended the LJCPA meeting to provide information on a project designed to contain hazardous material in an area once used as a trash dump within what is today known as Pottery Canyon (off Torrey Pines Road, just north of La Jolla Parkway).

Though last week Jeffry Szymanski, a senior planner with the city’s Development Services Department, told the

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most of the artifacts found when boring into the ground appeared to be La Jollans’ old household trash, Hyatt said during the LJCPA meeting that debris at the site consist mainly of fragmented and fused glass, and lead-glazed ceramics, which may be related to a pottery-making business operated there between the late 1920s and ’50s by the Rodriguez family — the site’s namesake and the reason it garnered a historic designation in the ’70s.

The work, which involves covering the site with a textile tarp and two feet of clean soil, would be paid for and conducted by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), and overseen by the city. Natural vegetation will be planted on top of the site once the job is complete.

Though Hyatt said boring tests found lead in several of samples, it was not considered at levels deemed hazardous by the state for non-residential areas, he said.

Hyatt said the 1,000 cubic yards of soil to be imported for the project would fill about ten residential swimming pools. Hauling away contaminated soil would have a potential for greater impacts, he said.

“Then you’d have (lead) dust in the air,” meeting attendee Mike Costello said, noting that the project overall seemed like “an awful amount of effort for a not very dangerous amount of lead. .... It’s actually a good way to do it, to cover it up. It’s a standard way to do it.”

An archaeologist and Native American representative will be on-site during the work to assure proper handling of any remains or artifacts uncovered.

Asked by trustee Ahern if there was a chance of toxins leaching through the “loamy soil” toward the water table or residential areas, Hyatt said he wasn’t entirely certain.

Following a concern raised by Don Schmidt that the Museum of Man could be the recipient of archaeological artifacts recovered at the site, Ahern asked if a representative from the La Jolla Historical Society could oversee the work, which Hyatt said is a possibility.

Tim Lucas, chair of the La Jolla Shores Association, which advises the city on parks in the Shores area, said he was disappointed that his group was not on the distribution list for a recently released Negative Mitigated Declaration (environmental report) prepared for the project. He questioned why CalRecycle would cap the project if it is not going to be used as parkland or for recreation.

Torrey Pines Corridor update:

During the meeting, District 1 City Council representative Sherri Lightner reported that a representative from the city would offer an update on the first phase of the long-stalled Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project at the next Traffic and Transportation meeting, 4 p.m. May 22 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.  Details on the second phase of the project will also be shared, Lightner said.

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