Parks jurisdiction is up for grabs

La Jolla Town Council could be forced to cede its authority over parks as the city and community advisory groups “rethink” how recommendations are made on park projects in La Jolla.

Currently, three groups - La Jolla Recreation Council Inc., La Jolla Town Council and La Jolla Shores Association - make recommendations on the area’s numerous public parks.

Since 1998, those three groups have been operating under the terms of the “McClatchy letter,” authored by the city’s former Park and Recreation director Marcia McClatchy, which spells out each group’s jurisdiction and responsibilities.

But times have changed. So have some of the rules. One, which precludes public groups overseeing parks from collecting dues from members, could spell trouble for the La Jolla Town Council, which collects dues annually from residents and businesses. The Town Council has jurisdiction for all coastal parks from Calumet Avenue in Bird Rock to Scripps Park; the Rec Council oversees operations at the center on Prospect Street and Bird Rock Park.

La Jolla’s situation with parks is unique, said Stacy LoMedico, the city’s current Park and Recreation director, who noted that city park planning in participating areas typically is handled by recreation councils via the community’s recreation center. But though La Jolla has a rec center, its park groups have been working under a 1998 memorandum (McClatchy).

“That is contrary to the rec council concept,” said LoMedico, who has been meeting with all of La Jolla’s groups to reach consensus on how best to move forward.

“They want what’s best for the residents of La Jolla: consistency, no confusion,” she said. “If a resident has a concern about a park, they want it to be clear which advisory group they would be interested in attending or outreaching to.”

Joe LaCava, president of the La Jolla Community Planning Association and Bird Rock Community Council, points out that having jurisdiction for all the various parks divided among four entities can be confusing.

For example, two of Bird Rock’s parks on its coastal bluffs are under the jurisdiction of the Town Council, while Bird Rock Park next to its elementary school lies within the purview of La Jolla Parks & Rec. Inc.

“La Jolla does need a hybrid situation, now that the city’s been pushing local decision-making down to the community neighborhood level,” LaCava said. “We don’t have the accountability and transparency we really need in this process.”

Chip Rome, president of La Jolla Parks & Rec. Inc., said his group has one primary concern about the possibility of altering the park process in La Jolla.

“We still want to maintain our autonomy, and we just hope that others are not seeking this as an opportunity to enhance their authority,” he said.

Jim Heaton, president of La Jolla Shores Association, which has jurisdiction over Kellogg Park, La Jolla Shores, Laureate Park, Allen Field and Cliffridge Park, said there isn’t a parks “problem” in La Jolla that needs fixing.

“We don’t see a need to rewrite anything at all, and are not interested in forming a group that would do anything that would affect the autonomy of the Shores,” he said.

Earl Van Inwegen, La Jolla Town Council president, said his group hasn’t discussed the issue. But if it’s true city rules don’t allow groups with paid membership such as the Town Council to manage parks then that “throws a monkey wrench in the works” and is “a problem that needs to be straightened out.”

Van Inwegen added that the Town Council’s executive board could address the issue at its meeting at 5 tonight at the rec center, 600 Prospect St.