'The Scripps Park Project proposes to enhance this postcard-perfect place. I think they have some political agenda," says Jaruska Solyova. "This city is quite bankrupt and quite corrupt. With improvements done by the architect, [the park] could turn into another Old Town or SeaWorld or Santa Monica waterfront." On Wednesday, June 14, the steering committee for the Scripps Park Project will host a public meeting to discuss proposed changes to the Ellen Browning Scripps Park, an area that includes La Jolla Cove.
Solyova, a yoga instructor, plans to fight the proposed changes, which may include moving the La Jolla Cove Bridge Club from its waterfront location to the area where Prospect Street meets Coast Boulevard.
"The whole idea [to renovate the park] came up about 15 years ago," says Patrick Ahern, chair of the Scripps Park Project. Three years ago, Ahern was asked to help create a concrete plan for these renovations. Steering committee member Bob West says, "Patrick has worked on segments of the coastline for numerous years. He did Windansea [Beach] before this, and the La Jolla Children's Pool. That whole area was improved and is incredible."
"I'm a bit of an environmentalist," says Ahern. "I like things that are natural and open. I have been surfing here for over 30 years, so most of my interest is along the coastline." Man-made erosion and pollution are two of the committee's guiding issues. "The pollution is created by runoff from overwatering the grass. Also, all that water goes over the bluff and erodes the Point Loma formation."
With the assistance of the project's chosen consultant, Campbell and Campbell Architects, Ahern hopes to reengineer the park so that rather than running off the bluff, excess water will gather at a central point. Ideas for that point include a pond or a middle grassy area known as the "meadow."
"Another guiding principle is to enhance and improve the spectacular view, which is one of the reasons for moving the bridge club," says Ahern. "We also want to move the restrooms over to the side near the street so that when you're sitting on the lawn you'll be able to look straight across, all the way to La Jolla Shores. Right now, when you look back over the meadow, all you see is the bathroom."
Howard Bresner, rental manager for the La Jolla Cove Bridge Club, agrees with Solyova in wanting to keep the club where it is. In the past 11 years, over 400 weddings and other special events have taken place in the club. "Why do they need to move the building? Because a few people can't see the view? That's not a reason. The building may not even be able to survive the move," says Bresner.
The club was built in 1939 and is considered by many to be a historic landmark. The 1125-square-foot space can be rented for $1500, plus a refundable $1000 deposit and a nonrefundable $100 cleaning fee.
"What I ask myself," says Ahern, "is would we put that bridge club there today?" The committee insists that at the new location the club's roof would be in line with surrounding treetops and would not impede the view of the nearby condominiums. "The position of the parks and beaches is to reduce commercialism. They are very strict when an event takes place...there are to be no commercial sales in the park, like T-shirts," explains Ahern.
Solyova criticizes plans to alter the park's landscape. "They want to replace the [current] vegetation with native vegetation," she says. "They say 'native,' but the plants that are there have been there for 80 years." The Scripps Park Project will be hiring a horticulturist to review the current state of vegetation in the area, including the palm trees that were planted in 1905. "Balboa Park plants about 200 trees a year," says Ahern. "We need to look ahead and be prepared to plant and replace trees early enough. All of the trees may be dying around the same time in the San Francisco Golden Gate Park because they didn't start [in time]."
Ahern hopes to plant native cultivars, like aloe, in place of the ice plant that currently blankets the bluff. "One consultant made a comment that Scripps Park looks like a country club, where everything's all perfect and manicured and unnatural. He basically dissed the park. A more natural look would be best along this beautiful coast."
Ahern insists that he has no agenda other than to protect his favorite environment. "People don't fear change, they fear the unknown," he says. "I love this park, and I wanted to preserve this openness and naturalness. That was my motivation for Windansea."
The current proposal, Ahern explains, "is only the first draft being presented to the community." Before any changes can begin, Scripps Park Project must obtain approval from many city departments, including lifeguard, fire, and police. "Then we go through environmental reviews, prepare an environmental impact report, and then go to the city council or park and recreation board, depending on the extent of the plan. We're a good year out," predicts Ahern. -- Barbarella
Public Meeting: Proposed Changes to E.B. Scripps Park
Wednesday, June 14
La Jolla Recreation Center
615 Prospect Street
Info: 858-459-7660 or www.scrippspark.com