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Symbolic Jewish line approved by Shores advisory board, again

A La Jolla advisory board voted to reconsider its approval of the proposed Adat Yeshurun eruv, only to approve it again after hearing more public comment on the contentious issue.

The La Jolla Shores Advisory Board held a special meeting March 21 at Civic Center Plaza downtown to consider clarifying its original approval of the project, which would consist of stringing monofilament line between street lights and installing four new aluminum poles in certain areas of La Jolla Shores. The meeting was prompted by letters from community members questioning the original motion’s accuracy and wording.

Board Chair Marvin Cohen said the group’s original motion to approve the project was deficient in that it did not explicitly state that the project had met all of the findings necessary for a public right-of-way use permit, and that a reference in the motion to the eruv being essential to practicing Jewish faith did not belong in the motion.

“That part is not in our purview,” Cohen said. “This has created a lot of reaction, and that is the area in which we will be entertaining discussion.”

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In order for the board to reconsider the motion, a motion to do so would have to be made by one of the members who originally voted in favor of it.

Lorraine Pedowitz, who was one of those members who originally voted in approval of the project, said she only did so because she thought the findings for the use permit had been met, but said she was open to rewording the motion.

“In the sense that it’s technically deficient because it doesn’t include in the motion that the findings had been met, I’d be willing to restate that,” Pedowitz said.

Pedowitz was informed that the board could not simply reword the motion, it would have to move to reopen the matter, hear public comment then create an all new motion that could possibly go against the project.

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Board member Sue Weissman said she thought reopening the matter for discussion was unnecessary.

“I see no reason to reopen the discussion,” she said. “We had a thorough discussion at the last meeting. I felt the seven requirements (for a use permit) were implicit in the motion to approve the project. We generally don’t use the term ‘findings’ every time we approve a project. That’s just general practice.”

In order for a project to be approved for a public right-of-way use permit, it must conform to seven requirements in the municipal code. The requirements focus on assuring that the project has no negative aesthetic impact, is not a safety hazard and conforms to local community plans.

Board member Susan Goulian said she felt those requirements should be more prominent in the board’s motion to approve the project.

“The motion we have now veers from the specific sections (of the municipal code) so much,” she said, “I think it should be reconsidered.”

The board voted to reconsider the motion and opened the matter to public comment. Sherri Lightner, chair of the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee, read from a motion made by her board to deny the project. The committee stated that Adat Yeshurun had not proven that the lines and poles would not adversely affect views, wildlife and street trees, and that the monofilament line could pose safety risks should they break and fall to the street.

Adat Yeshurun President David Kupferberg said there are more than 150 eruvin in the United States and there are no records of anyone being injured by one. He said the entire congregation would monitor the eruv’s condition and that any breakages or sagging wires would be immediately fixed.

“We all live in the neighborhood. If anything is wrong we will fix it immediately. It has to be maintained for our religious purposes,” Kupferberg said. “We are committed to keeping it in good shape.”

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One speaker argued the project should be denied on the grounds of public safety, citing the recent application by other local synagogues for grant money from the Department of Homeland Security.

“If these people feel they’re a target and need grant money, (the eruv) is going to be a target,” Claree Doty said.

Morris Casuto of the Anti-Defamation League stood to dispute the statement.

“These are not ‘special interest groups,’ ” he said, referencing an earlier speaker’s remark. “These are not ‘these people.’ These are your neighbors.”

Cohen quashed the argument, saying the discussion should be limited to the project’s adherence to the municipal code.

Board member Gail Forbes asked why the congregation could not use existing utility wires to create a larger eruv without having to install new monofilament lines. Kupferberg said the congregation had looked into the possibility and that the boundary it had proposed was chosen because it had the least impact on the community.

“Using existing wires and a different boundary would require more wires, more poles,” Kupferberg said.

Forbes moved to approve the project, but only if the eruv was larger in scale.

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“I can’t approve one that so divides our community,” she said.

Cohen said that a motion would have to address the project already proposed, rather than endorsing an as-yet-undefined larger eruv, so Forbes switched her motion, saying she would move to oppose the project.

The motion failed. Pedowitz then moved to approve the project on the basis that the findings for a use permit had been met, and the motion carried.

Forbes noted that the La Jolla Shores Advisory Board is empowered to attach comments to its recommendations that will be read by a city planning commission when it hears the project in the coming months. She moved that the board attach a comment asking the planning commission to the investigate the possibility of a larger eruv, and the motion passed.