By Frances O’Neill Zimmerman
La Jolla residentI lived for 23 years on the block of Bonair Street just east of the Riford Senior Center, which is at the corner of Bonair and faces La Jolla Boulevard. Like everyone in the area, I always felt a warm connection to that institution.
Now I live five blocks away and hear from Bonair family and friends that the Riford Center Board, headed by President Glen Rasmussen, is relentlessly pushing to punch an entrance into the residential Bonair Street side of the building, bringing new pedestrian and automobile traffic with it.
This intrusive plan understandably has caused conflict between residents and the Riford board, which leases the city-owned property and wants to commercialize the operation — remodel the building (with federal funds meant for low-income communities,) charge fees to members, hold evening and weekend events and parties with alcohol, and use valet parkers who crowd neighborhood curbs with vehicles, for lack of any dedicated center parking.
What’s amazing is that area neighbors were never notified of any of these drastic changes: They found out from the grapevine. No neighborly informational sharing from the Riford Board, no publicity, no public hearings. Incredibly, no official notice from Councilmember Sherri Lightner’s office, which provided the $200,000 HUD-funded Community Development Block Grant to the Riford Center Board for the overhaul.
Lightner claims notice wasn’t required, but it would have been a good idea.
This stealth approach is ironic because you’d expect Councilmember Lightner to be unusually sensitive to community concerns of this sort, since she herself worked tirelessly for years to prevent establishment of a UCSD Hillel Center on the edge of a residential neighborhood in her part of town over in the Shores.
Protecting neighbors in the Shores may be different from protecting neighbors at WindanSea, but it’s bad politics, especially in an election year.