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Panel to review rules on Scripps Park gatherings

Attempting to gain more control over private and commercial use of La Jolla’s Scripps Park, the La Jolla Town Council Parks and Beaches Committee wants to tighten the guidelines.

“Scripps is a 5.2-acre park enjoyed by family, friends and large users, everyone from the Motor Car Classic to weddings,” committee member Patrick Ahern told his colleagues during a presentation Feb. 22. “Currently, the city has few guidelines for users of the park. What we want to do is come up with suggested guidelines that say use of Scripps Park should be fairly balanced between large and small groups and individual users.”

Ahern noted current city regulations for Scripps Park allow major events to be attended by up to 80 people without triggering a conditional use permit restricting uses. He added one of the few other conditions now imposed in the park for large gatherings is that they leave 25 percent of the park open for other users.

Longtime park committee member Melinda Merryweather said she felt both existing use conditions are too lenient.

“I think that should be the other way around, 75 percent of the park should be left open for other users,” she said. “Eighty people for large gatherings is too many — it should be 40 or 50.”

Committee member Debbie Beacham suggested eliminating or restricting commercial uses of the park. “We’ve said over and over it would be much better to have the park for the park’s sake and not make money,” she said. “That’s our mission.”

La Jolla resident Mike Forbes said commercial use of the park could easily be restricted with proper definition in new guidelines. “If you put fencing around it (event) that you can’t cross — that qualifies you for the corporate rate,” he suggested.

At Ahern’s behest, the group voted to form a subcommittee to explore ideas. The subcommittee is proposed to include Debbie Beacham, Sally Miller, Melinda Merryweather, Michele Addington, Mike Forbes and Jack Holzman.

Ahern said revised park user guidelines would be taken to the full La Jolla Town Council for its approval. After that, if approved, those changes would become part of the Scripps Park Project. In 2003, a 15-member advisory board started work on developing a long-term master plan to preserve, restore and enhance 5.6-acre Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Park.

The advisory board was created after it became clear the Jewel’s prize park had become tarnished over time due to a number of problems including eroding bluffs; inadequate parking; the deterioration of restrooms, railings, foot paths and other facilities; aging and dying plant life, and inadequate lawn irrigation and storm water discharge into the ocean.

Ahern, who’s been spearheading the master-planning efforts, said its approval ultimately would sit in the hands of the city’s 11-member San Diego Park & Recreation Board, which advises on the acquisition, development, maintenance and operation of parks, beaches and recreation properties and facilities.