Improving La Jolla Streetscape Plan Gets Community Planning Association Approval

The Enhance La Jolla Streetscape Plan for The Village was approved by local city planning boards when the La Jolla Community Planning Association unanimously gave their support at its February 3 meeting.

LJCPA hailed the plan as something that will “bring energy back to the village”.

But some participants expressed concern about one key element.

Streetscape means the appearance or view of a street, and the Enhance La Jolla plan is a four-phase, $15 million project to renovate Girard Avenue between Silverado and Prospect streets and the area known as the name “The Dip” to Prospect. Planned street improvements within the public right-of-way include curb extensions, paving, landscaping, lighting, conversion of northbound Prospect to a public pedestrian thoroughfare between Girard and Herschel Avenues, and conversion of the south side of Prospect in this two-way traffic area. Over $1.5 million is already available for the project.

The plan recently gained approval from the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee, Development Permit Review Committee, and Traffic and Transportation Board.

The project is supported by the La Jolla Community Foundation and Enhance La Jolla, which administers the La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District. Thanks to MAD, Enhance La Jolla has the ability to work in the public right-of-way.

The plaintiff’s representative, Mark Steele, founder of architecture and planning firm MW Steele Group, told LJCPA that the plan has two “major phases”, the first being work on Avenue Girard and the second being The Dip.

Among these, four projects:

• Renovation of the intersection of Avenue Girard and Wall Street
• Establish a mid-block crossing in boulder 7800 of Girard
• Added landscaping and pop-ups (sidewalk extensions that help make pedestrians more visible and slow the speed of cars around the bend) on Girard at Silverado Street
• Creation of a space at The Dip on Prospect Street

Plans for all four projects include improved landscaping, art elements, and additional benching and lighting.

Girard Avenue/Wall Street refurbishment is expected to be carried out first due to availability of funding and approval from local councils.

“The idea is to improve the visual quality of the street but also to improve pedestrian safety,” Steele said. “This includes landscaping and…sidewalk extensions to slow traffic. This creates a new type of plaza, which will be great for retailers and will make it a friendly place. There are small landscaped parklets with opportunities for public art.

Plans are still being drawn up for which trees will be used, and street lighting will also be added, he said.

LJCPA Administrator Mike Costello called the streetscape plan “really exciting.”

Comparing the proposal to installing roundabouts on La Jolla Boulevard in Bird Rock, Costello said, “With the change, there was a lot of apprehension about how the change was going to affect [residents]. When you think about it, no one wants to cancel this plan. It brought a lot of pride to the community… and attention to the community. It brought changes, but everyone liked those changes.

Administrator Patrick Ahern said he supports the Girard Avenue proposal “as something that would improve pedestrian safety and create a sense of place and charm for our village. … This will re-energize the Village.

He compared The Dip element to Piazza della Famiglia in San Diego’s Little Italy.

But not everyone agreed with The Dip.

Alan Viterbi, president of the owners association of the Muse residential complex at 1020 Prospect St., said no one in the building was consulted or informed about this part of the plan, which would be right in front of the building. He said he supported improving the streetscape along Avenue Girard, but had ‘serious concerns’ about The Dip, particularly regarding safety, traffic and noise .

Although administrator Jodi Rudick said the plan is “something so beautiful and the aspirations are so laudable”, she added that nearby owners should be “brought into the conversation”.

Steele said it was time to finalize the details and address Viterbi’s concerns.

Steele said proponents of the plan went to San Diego city officials for a preliminary review, “primarily to try to understand the permitting process for this and ask the technical questions.” He said the team is entering the development phase of the design “to flesh out the trees and the materials.”

Once that’s done, “we’ll work with the city to get building permits.”

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