Plans are under way for the Princess Street beach access trail to be restored for public use.
Ure Kretowicz, chair/CEO of The Cove Equity Group LLC, Cornerstone Communities Corp., which owns La Jolla Hotel, announced Dec. 12 after a years-long fight, and after having exhausted all his legal remedies, that his court tangles over the beach access have concluded.
“It was a hard fought legal exercise; frustrating, expensive and inequitable,” said Kretowicz. “Dianne (his wife) and I truly were never made aware – or even suspected – that a claim for an easement down what became our property was ever legitimate. We were never allowed to show our corroborating evidence, and were never allowed to give testimony or provide witnesses in court to substantiate our position. In addition, there was never any record on any of the title reports provided to three consecutive buyers of the property over a 30-year timeframe.”
Kretowicz's announcement came after he lost his appeal to the state Supreme Court, during which he contended historic beach access through his Princess Street property never existed. He pointed out the gate to the long-deteriorated path has been locked for more than 30 years.
Kretowicz argued there was “no title notification” that there was an existing easement cutting across his property when he bought it, adding he didn’t learn that there allegedly was an easement until he applied for permits to remodel in the mid-'90s.
On the other side of the land-use argument were Melinda Merryweather, a longtime La Jolla parks planner who's mapped all of La Jolla’s 50-plus beach-access points, and Anthony Ciani, an architect now living in Nothern California, previously of La Jolla.
A former lifeguard in the '50s and '60s, Ciani spent a great deal of time and money over the years battling Kretowicz in court to secure a Princess Street beach access. He argued that access was critical to maintaining lifeguards' “safety net” of coastal beach access.
Noting she walked the Princess Street dirt trail, which goes all the way back to Native American times, often as a youth, Merryweather contends the Princess Street's beach-access trail is necessary “for historic and safety reasons,” adding a sign that once existed on Princess Street that said “public beach access,” mysteriously disappeared.
Now that Kretowicz has exhausted his appeals and given up his legal fight to preclude beach access, Merryweather said she's asked the Pala Band of Mission Indians, whose reservation is in northern San Diego County, to support the Princess Street trail's restoration and dedication.
“You have to have insurance for it, and the money to pay for the trail being redone, probably by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Merryweather said. “You also have to develop a trail management plan including funds for design, improvement and maintenance.”
In parting, Merryweather concluded, “I am thrilled beyond belief. It was amazing to me it took so long. It's going to be done. We're going to return that trail to its previous condition.”
Of lessons learned from the long Princess Street beach-access court battle, Ciani concluded, “Persistence paid off.” noting “it took some risk,” Ciani added, “there is a need to balance conservation within our capitalistic system. In this case, I fought for a cause.”
And Ciani pointed out, “we're not done yet. We're not done until people are walking down that trail. That's when we're going to be done. But we're going to get there sooner – rather than later.”