Move to restore beach access at Princess Street resurfaces



Staff Writer

The issue of restoring beach access at Princess Street has resurfaced.

Some oldtime La Jollans are insisting there are longstanding land-use issues on the blufftop property owned by Ure and Diane Kretowicz at 7957 Princess St. which need to be addressed. More specifically, the argument is that a 5-foot-wide vertical easement running along one side of the Kretowicz home ought to be officially dedicated allowing not only emergency but also public access from the Princess blufftop cul-de-sac down to the shoreline.

That access issue dates back decades and across four different property owners. And there have also been permitting issues raised with the existing, two-story, 2,970-square foot house on the 1.3-acre blufftop site now inhabited by the Kretowiczs, which has been substantially modified and expanded over the years.

“We’d love to see it (beach access) restored,” said Melinda Merryweather of La Jolla Town Council’s Parks & Beaches Committee who mapped coastal beach access for the La Jolla Community Plan. “We need to keep every beach access we have, improve and preserve them, and create new ones.”

Merryweather is displeased that the Kretowiczs will only allow emergency beach access for lifeguards and firefighters — but not the public — through their property.

Kretowicz has been involved for some time in a lawsuit with the California Coastal Commission. He is seeking to be released from having to dedicate a public access easement along his property and to have improvements and modifications made to his single-family residence grandfathered in.

In ongoing negotiations with the commission, Kretowicz has proposed that the commission delete the requirement that he dedicate both vertical and lateral public access along his property, in exchange for his paying $3.3 million to fund various public coastal access projects elsewhere in La Jolla as mitigation.

“A requirement for an easement wasn’t on my property title,” Kretowicz said. “I question what is historic access. A prescriptive easement was never granted. We have never agreed to granting a public easement.”

Kretowicz said alleged permit violations for improvements made to his property and residence are “inherited from 30 years and four owners ago and we are the party that gets left holding the bag.”

Kretowicz also disagrees with the contention that beach access is even feasible at Princess Street.

“It’s a very unsafe access point to a cobblestone-covered area: There is no beach there,” he said.

Merryweather has been visiting La Jolla community advisory groups lobbying them to join her in calling for Princess Street beach access to be restored. A recent convert to her cause was attorney Joe Dicks, president of La Jolla Shores Association.

“We shouldn’t have to beg them (Coastal Commission) for dedicating public access,” Dicks said at LJSA’s November meeting. “Why isn’t the city attorney enforcing the public’s right for that (beach) access?”

La Jolla architect Tony Ciana, the one who initiated litigation to attempt to restore historic beach access at Princess Street in 1979, said the main issue involved then and now remains the same: safety.

“When you block public access to the beach, you end up having a lot of emergencies because people can’t find their way off the beach,” he said.

Lee McEachern, district regulatory supervisor for the San Diego Coastal Commission’s District office, said Kretowicz asked for a postponement in October on his proposed settlement with the commission on beach access and permit issues regarding his redeveloped property.

“Right now it’s looking like that’s going to come back to us in January or February,” McEachern said.