It takes a village: Voices of La Jolla look forward on community issues
by BLAKE BUNCH
Published - 01/16/17 - 04:30 PM | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Well, 2016 may finally be kaput, but in La Jolla many similar issues persist. Although historically slow news-wise, over the holiday season a few longstanding issues found some resolution for good or ill (depending on which side of the fence one is on). From the Princess St. public beach access ruling to the City of San Diego’s closing and prompt re-opening of the Children’s Pool, it seemed as though it was one of the busier months in recent years.

Moving forward to 2017, La Jolla Village News recently spoke with some of the predominant, involved voices from Bird Rock to the Golden Triangle. Although everyone maintains their own specific area of expertise, opinions, and forethought regarding the direction of La Jolla, most have one goal in common – the overall enhancement of this terrific slice of Southern California.

Joe LaCava has lived in Bird Rock for over 30 years, was named the first “honorary mayor of La Jolla” in 2016, and was an early champion of the aforementioned area’s MAD.

While the Bird Rock MAD has seen some success in their community, LaCava understands that issues found directly in his area could vary greatly compared to those in the Village, Shores, or University City.

“The key thing is that it truly brings the community together and say ‘we have a need for this, and we’re all going to agree to chip in until its completed’,” LaCava said of the Bird Rock MAD. “Although the pricing varies in response to the type of unit one lives in, the costs are greatly outweighed by the overall benefits. There is a true power and volume when we come together as a citizen body.”

There is no denying that infrastructure has been a hot-button issue for most involved in La Jolla politics within the past few years. Each individual that spoke with the La Jolla Village News on the topic typically evoked a resoundingly similar response – that these ongoing projects need to reach completion, and in a timely and unobtrusive manner.

As long as La Jollans are in agreement on something, albeit on one issue, perhaps 2017 could prove to be a red-letter year.

“We need to continue to try and finish the ongoing projects and issues in our area – like the newly constructed lifeguard towers – we have to get those fixed,” LaCava continued. “We are lucky to be comprised of so many fine, unique coastal communities. We are all affected by infrastructure, so we definitely need to find better solutions to these longstanding problems. While the different areas will differ on opinion on many things, we all have to ‘go to battle’ with the City at one time or another. Fortunately, there is not much competition between the neighborhoods, but there could be a better exchange of information and lessons learned. Starting up a MAD is difficult at first, but we have truly seen its success.”

Claude-Anthony (CA) Marengo of Marengo Morton Architects, civic leader and former president of the La Jolla Merchants Association, would like to see more cohesiveness not only in the neighborhoods, but also the preservation the retail/office/restaurant mixed business model that has typically sustained the village.

“It is truly unfortunate that we are beginning to lose our retail businesses,” said Marengo. “La Jolla takes pride in its mom and pops shops, and where some could find larger stores like Reebok, Chicos, etc. leaving the Village as a good thing, I’m not so sure that I do. What is the point of retail? To walk around, talk with your friends and family, and drop in a store to see what they have to offer. I have a firm belief that we desperately need to revisit the planned district ordinance. It was written around 1984, so it is completely antiquated in dealing with today’s online mode of business.”

How does one bring retail back to the business? By creating more spaces for them in which to operate. While Marengo’s company is developing a good deal of these larger-unit projects in the area, his goal is to find a healthy balance to sustain locals and tourists alike. He likens a desire for new businesses, with the apparel company Bonobos as an example, where customers try on apparel in a storefront, then it is shipped to their home, or they can order it online.

In regards to some major ongoing/slated construction projects for this year, Marengo elaborated: “We have a lot in the pipeline. Currently, my company is finishing up a 16-unit project, Su Casa, which will entail over 3,000 square feet of retail space. Also, we are working on some high-end residential condos across from the Bishops School. Though not my firm’s projects, I do know that the revamping of Alfonso’s for a new tenant, as well as a six-unit condominium on Pearl St. are currently in the works. Of course, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCASD) is expanding as well, and that will be going to hearing soon.”

Melinda Merryweather co-founder of Friends of Windansea, vice-president of Independent La Jolla, and a member of the California Coastal Access Trust has long remained an outspoken proponent for the area’s secession from the City of San Diego.

“I am looking ahead to all of us being able to access the beach once again at Princess St., and am so proud to have been part of this 20-year fight to get our access back,” said Merryweather. “Also, I am looking forward to the city keeping the public views of the ocean trimmed on Torrey Pines Road, for this was also a 20-year project of mine as well. Of course, I am looking forward to the seals and sea lions returning to from ever they came from—like all good tourists.”

Shannon Smith, artist, jewelry maker, and owner of the Cave Store would seemingly have one thing on her mind – the omnipresent seal stench that has been played out in both local, national, and even international news. However, Smith doesn’t even entertain the issue, instead focusing more directly infrastructure and erosion issues.

“I’d really like to see a more effective parking plan,” said Smith. “While we all know that these things aren’t going to happen overnight, this problem increases exponentially every year. It would be nice to have some viable solutions for the community to weigh-in on at some point. Something has to be thought out, for I feel like all of our issues are indefinitely intermingled.”

She then brought to attention erosion of a specific area, though not negating that La Jolla has seen an increase in erosion in several other areas as well.

“Goldfish Point could use some love as well, for its erosion has been a problem since the early 2000s. We truly need to think of a sustainability plan. There have been five times the amount of people here since then, and it has a direct effect on said erosion.”

In speaking with all of these concerned La Jollans, common trends seem to emerge in their speech, either pro or against a provided issue. With these rapid technological advances, it is certain that, regardless of how one may feel, new approaches to local governance may help – if anything, they definitely should not hinder.

Sheila Fortune, Executive Director of La Jolla Merchants and La Jolla Coastal Access and parking, shares this sentiment ten-fold.

“We, unfortunately, maintain the ‘old school’ ways of thinking regarding many issues,” said Fortune. “Although we have had millennials and young entrepreneurs enter the community as business owners, toting about new ideas and business practices, it would be nice seeing a tangible shift in this direction. Honestly, some big changes are going to have to be made to make La Jolla prosperous again.”

Fortune is also an avid opponent of the city entering into an agreement with DecoBike to place bike-lock and rental stations throughout La Jolla. She feels that the city was able to create this agreement “behind the backs” of any advisory boards – basically making decisions for their area without any consent.

“They [SD City Council] signed this agreement with DecoBike with seeking the opinions of other council opinions,” said Fortune. “Basically, we were told that the stations were going to be installed whether we liked it or not. Also, it is a massive safety issue, due to traffic and topography, so it would be very difficult to get around.”

It seems as though many La Jollans are optimistic 2017. While they aim to go about streamlining infrastructure construction work, re-evaluate antiquated codes and legislation that could inversely affect the area’s prized “mom and pop” feel, they will also take approach issues in typical fashion – full of opinion, passion, and wherewithal, and hopefully as more of a unified citizenry.
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