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Streetscape Committee takes aim at news racks

A community Streetscape Committee is investigating ways to beautify and more efficiently manage hardscape and landscape in La Jolla Village.

A joint committee of Promote La Jolla, the community’s merchant district, and La Jolla Town Council, the new committee has formed a number of subcommittee focus groups.

Those groups are investigating unsightly and nonconforming news racks, looking into sidewalk cleanup, maintaining benches, trash cans and litter, exploring donations and financing options, noting illegal signage, and exploring better ways to maintain hanging baskets and remove weeds.

“It’s going to take a focused effort by people, volunteers, who are willing to make this happen,” said attorney Glen Rasmussen, the group’s chairman. “And it’s going to take some money from foundations, or groups of individuals or the community as a whole once we’ve identified specific projects.”

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Subcommittee co-chairs Michele Addington and James Reed are documenting unsightly and illegal news racks around town. The pair met with a city code enforcement official last week to give him a guided tour of the Village’s 322 news racks, many of which they say are in woeful shape.

Reed said it was an eye-opening experience.

“A third of them can go,” he said noting several belong to companies no longer in business or are in such a state of disrepair that they are no longer usable. “The challenge is to get the city to pick them up.”

Addington said it costs $250 per news rack to remove them.

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Addington added that seeing is believing where news racks are concerned.

“Every violation that exists was there,” she said. “News racks are not being taken care of. It would be nice if La Jollans could manage the news rack process rather than the city, because I think we’d be more efficient.”

Rasmussen questioned whether First Amendment protections governing newspapers applied to strictly advertising periodicals now in many of the racks.

Addington said another problem is illegal sandwich (A-frame) sidewalk signs that are rampant throughout the Village.

Streetscape Committee member Sharon Wampler suggested the group look into a beautifying effort tried successfully in San Ysidro: work crews funded by merchants travel around town in golf carts sweeping sidewalks, picking up trash and washing gutters. “

We need to think of longer-term, sustainable solutions,” she said. “Obviously, San Ysidro is very different from La Jolla, but the model could be used anywhere.”

The group is also actively looking into new technology using dry ice machines as one possible way to effectively clean sidewalks. Efforts are also under way to have a couple of solar-powered Big Belly trash compactors, such as the one in front of Jeff’s Burgers in La Jolla Shores, installed in the Village.