La Jolla News Nuggets: Fay Avenue cinema design approved, chick’s departure means lifeguard tower work can resume ... and more

A photo of the Children’s Pool seagull chick taken last week. Ashley Mackin

Compiled by Pat Sherman and Ashley Macki


Chick departs, tower work to resume

Following a more than two-month delay, construction on the new Children’s Pool lifeguard tower will resume in early August. Although the work was slated to begin again when the seals’ pupping season ended May 15, a nesting seagull chick was discovered that had to fly away before construction could begin (per Department of Fish and Game code section 3503). On July 28, a project biologist visited the site and confirmed that the gull had flown away. The contractor was notified work can resume Monday, Aug. 4.

Hearing set for Casa Beach closure

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) will consider the City of San Diego’s request to close all public access to Children’s Pool Beach (aka Casa Beach) during the harbor seals’ pupping season, Dec. 15-May 15. The CCC will take up the issue 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 14 at Catamaran Resort, 39999 Mission Blvd. in Pacific Beach.

The hearing is open to the public. Testimony may be limited to three minutes per speaker.

The city’s Park and Recreation Department requested the closure to protect the harbor seals from harassment during pupping season. The proposal calls for installation of “area closed” signs on a post-and-chain barrier at the top of the lower staircase to the beach, and on the emergency access gate adjacent the seawall.

CCC staff has recommended the closure with these conditions: It would be authorized for five years, after which a new coastal development permit must be issued, or the existing one amended. A plan must be created to monitor the closure, including a discussion of its goals and objectives, as well as the level of beach usage by seals as a haul-out site and a method of determining the efficacy of the closure at minimizing harassment of seals.

In addition, a qualified biologist, environmental specialist, park ranger, lifeguard or volunteer trained by the city must record the number of hauled-out seals, any citations and warnings issued for harassing seals, outcomes of issuing citations and other information. Monitoring would be conducted a minimum of 16 days a month, three times a day at 10 a.m., 1 and 4 p.m. The city must also submit an annual monitoring report for review and approval by CCC’s executive director.

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Artist’s rendering for the proposed Boffo Cinemas/The Lot on Fay Avenue. Courtesy
Artist’s rendering for the proposed Boffo Cinemas/The Lot on Fay Avenue. Courtesy

New cinema design approved

The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance committee (LJPDO) lent its unanimous approval to design plans for the conversion of the former Jonathan’s Market space at 7611 Fay Ave. to an upscale, dine-in cinema complex with seven screens and 363 seats (Boffo Cinemas/The Lot).

Applicant Adolfo Fastlicht said he plans to paint the building in earth tones approved by La Jolla’s planned district ordinance (blueprint for development), with lighter shades used for the majority of the building and darker trim with wood plank accents at the corners. Fastlicht, who signed a 20-year lease on the property, also wants to plant climbing vines (a “living wall” on Fay Avenue) that would eventually cover the building.

Although the theater will include a second-story addition, Fastlicht said it would not exceed La Jolla’s 30-foot height limit. He plans to plant sycamore trees alongside the sidewalks by the building, and replace the sidewalks.

A mural adjacent the parking lot by Robert Irwin and Philipp Scholz Rittermann will be taken down during construction and reinstalled after the work is finished.

LJPDO member Deborah Marengo moved to approve the plans, though she noted La Jolla’s planned district ordinance calls for palm trees, not sycamores — a change the committee will address directly with city officials. The theater should be open by early 2015.

George’s OK to ‘grow’

La Jolla Planned District Ordinance committee approved restaurateur George Hauer’s plans to expand George’s Ocean View Terrace to the roof of a building directly to the east. The proposal includes widening the existing rooftop bar, with additional bar seating and a larger waiting area.

LJPDO chair Ione Stiegler said the plans, presented by architect Mark Steele, must include a “shared parking agreement.” The 550-square-foot expansion requires four additional parking spaces, she said.

Stiegler said all city issues with the expansion have been addressed. No food is to be served in the new area, which will include awnings and umbrellas.

Donovan’s Village-bound

An employee at Donovan’s Steakhouse across from Westfield UTC confirmed that the eatery will be relocating to the Village in early 2015, most likely to a space on or near Prospect Street (though the restaurant would not state the exact location at this time).

The upscale eatery has been located across from Westfield UTC Mall for about 15 years. The employee said the restaurant would only be closed for about a week during the transition.

Odor litigation lingers

A judge refused to dismiss a suit against the City of San Diego filed last year by a group calling itself the Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement (CONA).

The suit was filed in Superior Court by Blumenthal, Nordrehaug and Bhowmik on behalf of CONA, which includes restaurateur George Hauer, La Valencia Hotel and a handful of private citizens. It demands that the city clean up the odor-causing bird and sea lion excrement on the bluffs at La Jolla Cove, and take down the fence it added there years ago, which prohibited the public from accessing the rocks and presumably emboldened marine animals to gather there.

Around the time the suit was filed, the city added a gate in the fence allowing public access to the bluffs at their own risk. Since that time, the odor has greatly diminished.

On July 15, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor denied the city’s requested “motion for judgment on the pleadings” (a party’s request to rule in his/her favor based on the pleadings on file), and a new trial date was set for Jan. 30, 2015.

Attorney Nicholas De Blouw of Blumenthal, Nordrehaug and Bhowmik said the city was basically claiming CONA couldn’t prove its case, because the city doesn’t have a duty to abate the odor, which De Blouw said his firm was able to counter via established case law.

The city argued immunity under California Government Code section 831.2, which states, “Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for an injury caused by a natural condition of any unimproved public property.” The city argued that whether the source of harm is the excrement or the wild animals themselves, it is a “natural condition” outside the city’s control.

CONA responded that the “natural condition” in question is the rocks at La Jolla Cove, and that because the city erected a fence preventing access to the rocks, this improvement rendered the area no longer properly described as “unimproved public property,” and that the buildup of excrement is not “natural” because of the fence.

DeBlouw said there exists an opportunity for the city and CONA to enter mediation between now and the trail date. If not, “we’re prepared to go to trial,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say (the smell’s) gone — some days are good, some days are bad,” DeBlouw said. “We want to make sure that there are more good days than there are bad.”