That was the gist of some residents’ concerns expressed at the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) July 9 meeting.
During an open dialogue on the upcoming Request for Proposals (RFPs) for new three-year contracts between the city and five existing Shores kayak rental franchises, residents presented a laundry list of complaints. Everything from overcrowded sidewalks, to noise, traffic congestion and “unwanted” tour buses was discussed.
“That’s what we’re looking for, input from the public,” said Lt. Rich Stropky, the San Diego Lifeguards spokesman on ongoing negotiations for the third RFP agreement, which will spell out conditions concessionaires must live by during the next three years of their operation.
The current kayak RFP expires this fall.
Describing kayaks as a “big-ticket item” in the Shores, LJSA chair Tim Lucas has noted that kayaking “is a popular water sport that has a tremendous impact on our beach, park, business district and residential areas.”
“Kayaks are here to stay,” Lucas pointed out.
Stropky said RFPs are “partnerships” between the city and kayak concessionaires, noting contract agreements are designed to achieve a “balance” between the needs and rights of residents and those of kayak operators.
Asked what criteria are used by the city to judge a kayak RFP, Stropky replied judging is done by a panel. “Personal safety,” he added, “is the number one thing for me.”
Stropky added kayak RFPs stipulate strict operating conditions, including limiting hours of kayak concession operations and fixing the total number of kayaks that can be operated by each company at any given time. Those restrictions are especially important during the summer peak period, which is at its maximum between July 4 and the end of August, when kayak operations are likely to be maxed out.
RFP applicants, it was noted, must be storefront businesses. Kayak operators are also limited by the approximately 125-foot boat launch within which all watercraft have to be launched.
LJSA board member Ray Higgins said kayak proliferation has become problematic, altering the character of the Shores' small commercial strip.
“Shores businesses have changed from a neighborhood, retail-oriented environment to a heavy tourist emphasis,” Higgins said. “Everyone,” he added, “has a right to have a thriving and growing business, but there needs to be some regulation. I can’t even walk down the street anymore without being absolutely mobbed (by kayak clients).”
A couple Shores residents stepped forward to complain about tour buses, which they said are increasingly showing up and disgorging scores of residents at a time.
LJSA board member and kayak operator Sharon Luscomb noted tour buses aren’t just dropping off kayak customers but serving a variety of groups and their needs, everything from schools and churches to youth camps. Luscomb also noted that the number of sidewalk cafes has grown further, increasing sidewalk crowding.
Dennis Rush, director of operations for LJ Beach & Tennis Club, pointed out the kayak RFP is “all about sharing the neighborhood” while adding that he feels the neighborhood’s “getting smaller” due to kayak proliferation. “Somebody’s pushing the envelope,” Rush said, noting that kayaks aren’t just adding to sidewalk congestion but in some instances are actually “blocking ocean views.”
Shores resident Wayne Thomas asked why paperwork for kayak businesses can’t be done on the beach rather than having clients stacking up on sidewalks outside storefronts.
“You’re not allowed to do commercial business on the beach,” Thomas was told, which is also the reason kayak operators are required to have storefronts – to store equipment and transact business.
After the meeting, Lucas said the kayak RFP issue will likely be revisited this fall after kayak concessionaires submit their applications to the city. Lucas said he would also post the city’s bullet points summarizing problems and issues with kayak concessions, on the advisory group’s website at ljsa.org, as soon as they are available.