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Windansea project stirs emotions

Some see lot altering spot’s heritage

La Jolla’s surf community acknowledges the work to upgrade Windansea parking lot is a positive development.

Even so, some say yet another piece of La Jolla’s history and lore has been irretrievably lost to development.

But others say the project won’t change the character of the landmark surf spot.

“That metal guard rail that was installed in that parking lot that guys like (famed surfer) Butch Van Artsdalen sat on, that was pulled out the other day … gone forever,” noted freelance writer and surf historian Richard Kenvin.

“Nobody will be able to take their kid into that parking lot and say, ‘This is where these guys sat.’ ”

Karl Luber president of Windansea Surf Club, which has been advancing the sport since its founding in 1962 while benefiting local charities, agreed the Windansea parking lot has attained nearly legendary stature over time.

La Jolla’s heritage

“The parking lot is really a part of La Jolla’s heritage,” he said.

Kenvin decried that even remnants of La Jolla’s heritage, like Windansea parking lot, are being eroding away by development, piece by piece.

“So much of La Jolla is gone,” he said. “The Red Rest and Red Roost (historic beach cottages), the oldest structures in La Jolla: Nobody cares about them. They’re sitting there, dilapidating, because some developers want to put a hotel in there. It’s pretty sad.”

Others involved with Windansea’s redevelopment, like La Jolla landscape architect Jim Neri, view the situation differently.

Neri, who has devoted much time and energy - a lot of it for free - over the years to improving Windansea, said he sees change being as inevitable as surf lapping onshore.

“Some people feel strongly there should never be any change down there at all,” he said. “The place has changed over the years. That used to be a coastal bluff with no parking lot.”

Years in the making

Neri said the parking lot improvements have been in the making for nearly a decade.

“We’ve been very upfront about this project,” he said. “We had (improvement) plans approved back in 2000, and have been implementing the plan, including benches and new coastal access stairways, over the years. This is simply the next phase of the plan.”

Melinda Merryweather, co-founder of 10-year-old Friends of Windansea, an ad hoc group supporting community improvements, noted the community signed off long ago on the long-term project.

“This has been 11 years in the works,” she said. “We had the plan at the library for two months.”

Merryweather said the parking lot is not going to be redeveloped to change its character.

No ferris wheels

“There will never be any bathrooms there, hot dog stands or ferris wheels,” she said. “All we’ve done is tilted the parking lot up so the water will run back into the street, rather than over the bluffs. People have to realize that, if we didn’t do this, we were going to have no (parking) lot.”

“Less is more,” said Friends of Windansea spokesman Patrick Ahern at the groundbreaking, noting the walking path proposed for the parking lot is dirt, not concrete.

“A guiding principle for us was to keep the soul of Windansea.”

The reconfigured parking lot, expected to be completed in early November, will provide improved disabled access, parking areas for bicycles and motorcycles and space to load and unload gear without sacrificing parking spaces. A pedestrian walkway is to be provided. Drainage and erosion issues, too, will be addressed.