Torrey Pines group looks at city park proposals

A group drafting a general development plan for Torrey Pines City Park, including the historic Torrey Pines Gliderport, is leaning toward a more natural approach to redeveloping the park and state beach below.

Laura Burnett, a consultant with Wallace Todd & Roberts which is coordinating with the Torrey Pines City Park Advisory Board, last week presented three options in ascending order of proposed development referred to as: Option 1 Basic, Option 2 Light Touch and Option 3 World Class.

Proposed changes run the gamut from few alterations to wholesale changes which could include building restroom facilities and bringing in water and sewer, constructing a ranger station and museum and providing large-group, special-event areas.

Noting there is a commonality among all three options, Burnett said ongoing flight operations will be respected, beach access will continue, signage will be provided and there will be extensive plant habitat restoration. Each option provides parking, with 200 spaces currently provided in Option 1, 350 spaces in Option 2 and 565 spaces in the third option.

La Jollan Ken King, representing Council District 1 on the board, said this was the first park project he’s worked on that didn’t have a budget identified with it.

Burnett said funding is to come later and added that the group should focus on vision and conceptualization and not be deterred by thoughts of cost.

“After you have your list (park components) then you can prioritize it,” said Chairwoman Ginny Barnes. “We’ll know how to spend it as we get it.”

Architect Michael Stepner, who is also a city Park & Recreation board member and former city architect, said the board shouldn’t completely discount the more pro-development Option 3.

“The issue we should be asking is, what fits and what doesn’t?” he said. “We need to look at this holistically.”

King disagreed with Stepner’s interpretation.

“I think less development is better than more development,” he said.

Board member Chris Schmidt of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club agreed with King that less park development might be better overall.

“I’m concerned about creating a Mission Bay Park,” he said. “I don’t think this is the park for that. I want it to remain more of a passive environment, with smaller areas for people to congregate, not large-scale areas for company picnics.”

Burnett suggested a “Goldilocks” approach might be best, compromising between the various options to find a middle ground with development that’s just right and not too extreme.

The plan is being pieced together by the advisory board, which includes representatives of non-motorized aviation, environmentalists and community planners from University City, La Jolla and Del Mar appointed by Mayor Jerry Sanders.

A new draft general development plan for the park is expected to be completed by early next year.

“By Feb. 18 we’d like to have a preferred plan that everybody is happy with,” said consulting firm rep Laura Burnett.

“The prerequisites are we have to provide clear flight paths and emergency landing,” Burnett said. “We have to provide ADA (disabled) access: It’s the law. We also need to solve the problem of using natural materials to construct paths and parking while maximizing native habitat restoration.”