Community planners add nine items to infrastructure ‘wish list’ for La Jolla


Following up on the surprising headway it made the last time it sent budget recommendations to the city, members of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) added nine new items to its wish list of infrastructure projects and services it would like the city to fund and implement in fiscal year 2015-2016.

The city only began asking community groups to list their budget priorities in 2012, although last year the process became city policy.

From an initial list of 20 items the LJCPA crafted in September 2013, seven of them have been fully or partially funded, noted LJCPA president Joe LaCava.

“When we did the list in 2013, I probably announced, ‘Don’t expect anything on our wish list to be funded,’ so the things that we did get funding for were a pleasant surprise,” LaCava said.

Due to efforts of La Jolla Parks & Beaches member Phyllis Minick, the pending Coast Walk sidewalk improvements at Children’s Pool have largely been covered by private funding, with some additional city funds promised, while the LJCPA’s suggested removal of the fence above La Jolla Cove was alternately addressed when the city added a gate to it to allow public access to the bluffs.

The items the city funded from the LJCPA’s initial list include a sidewalk at La Jolla Hermosa Park, La Jolla Parkway/Mount Soledad erosion control measures, replacement of the reservoir at La Jolla Heights Natural Park and the first two phases of improvements to the Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project.

At the urging of LJCPA trustee Ray Weiss, the LJCPA added a footnote in its earlier request to fund the first two phases of Torrey Pines Road improvements, stipulating that the sidewalks on both the north and south sides of the Torrey Pines Road be expanded to the regulation width of five feet.

“I spent two-and-a-half hours in surgery because that sidewalk is too narrow,” Weiss said, adding that people in wheelchairs do not have adequate room to navigate the sidewalks on the north side.

“It’s a hazard, and it’s the only way to go between La Jolla Village and La Jolla Shores on foot,” he said. “Whether it involves (use of) eminent domain or narrowing the street, these are big issues that have to be dealt with upfront, not as an afterthought.”

The nine newsmakers:

New items added to the LJCPA’s infrastructure wish list, to be presented to the office of District 1 City Council president Sherri Lighnter for consideration by the full City Council, include:

  1. Funding a community process (and city staff hours) to revise La Jolla Shores Planned District Ordinance to be less ambiguous;
  2. Funding a community process (and staff hours) to consider incorporating the La Jolla Community Plan into the Land Development Code, so that zoning for residential properties in La Jolla can be tailored to the community’s unique topography (as opposed to the current practice of applying generic, citywide zoning in La Jolla);
  3. Increased funding for code enforcement, so existing regulations are effectively and consistently enforced;
  4. Adding seagull-proof trash cans and solar-powered BigBelly trash compactors/recycling containers to Kellogg Park in the Shores;
  5. Funding increased police presence throughout La Jolla;
  6. Funding the mayor’s pledge of monthly bluff treatments to reduce the La Jolla Cove odor;
  7. Funding a community process to identify and implement traffic calming measures, such as suggested roundabouts along La Jolla Shores Drive;
  8. Expanding the sidewalk at the northwest corner of Avenida de la Playa and Camino del Oro in the Shores;
  9. Funding to support revising the current categorical exemption process for residential remodels in the coastal zone.

‘McMansions’ vs. 50% rule

The current process by which property owners are deemed exempt from obtaining a coastal development permit (CDP) has drawn considerable criticism, with many residents believing it has created a loophole spurring the proliferation of bulky “McMansion”-style development in La Jolla.

LaCava explained that the categorical exemption process — which allows property owners to obtain a building permit without first notifying neighbors of their remodel plans — currently employs a “50 percent rule,” in which an applicant can bypass the requirement to obtain a CDP (saving considerable time and money) by retaining 51 percent or more of a home’s existing walls in their remodel.

LaCava said one property owner left 51 percent of their existing garage walls standing, then built their new garage in another area.

“As soon as the city comes up with a rule defining what 50 percent is, some clever person figures out a way around it,” LaCava said. “The simple rule of 50 percent is now an eight-page book about how you calculate that 50 percent.”

LaCava said the city has proven amenable to a solution that replaces the 50 percent rule with an exemption that allows property owners to directly obtain a building permit if their proposed remodel is 80 percent of the allowed floor-area ratio (or less), 90 percent of the allowed height, and has a second floor that is smaller than its first floor (preventing the boxy appearance of most so-called McMansions).

Although La Jollans previously rejected this change in the exemption threshold, LaCava said the timing may be right to consider it again. “When we brought it here (previously) the feeling was, ‘We don’t trust the building permit plan checkers,’ … but the city I’m pretty sure would be ready to fly with it if we said yes.”

13 on the back burner

Existing, as yet unfunded priorities identified by the community and LJCPA in 2013 include:

  1. Scripps Park improvements (2009 plan);
  2. South Coast Boulevard Park improvements (2008 plan);
  3. Coast Walk feasibility studies;
  4. Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project Phase 3;
  5. The Belvedere Promenade ocean-view pedestrian project on Prospect Street;
  6. Installation of a sidewalk at La Jolla Boulevard at Colima Street;
  7. Repairing sidewalks throughout the Village of La Jolla;
  8. Installing sidewalks at Pottery Canyon Park;
  9. Replacing curbs at the intersection of Prospect Street, Coast Boulevard and Olivetas Avenue;
  10. Implementation of the Fay Avenue Bike Path General Development Plan and Dedication;
  11. Charlotte Park General Development Plan;
  12. New park signage for La Jolla’s coastal areas;
  13. Widening the narrow sidewalk opposite 939 Coast Boulevard.

While it was suggested that the wish list might get unwieldy by adding new projects to the unfunded items carried over from 2013, LaCava said it is prudent to have a diverse list to match projects with sources of state, local or federal funding that are time-sensitive and earmarked for specific types of work.
“The city’s been in a financial hold for quite some time … but the financial picture is looking better,” LaCava said. “If we can get the money, let’s grab it, let’s build it.”