Torrey Hills Board approves landscape restoration project


By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

A “big parcel of dirt” in the Torrey Hills neighborhood is about to get a new look. The Torrey Hills Community Planning Board approved plans on Oct. 19 for a landscape restoration of the property off East Ocean Air Drive and Corte Mar Asombrosa.

The plan will now be sent to the city for final engineering and irrigation design.

The property is at the crest of the hill of East Ocean Air Drive where a row of houses faces the 200-foot SDG&E easement, under a large power pole and lines.

“We’re looking to soften the view to this piece of dirt that homeowners look at every day,” said board member Brad Fagan, who has been working on the project for a little over a year.

“It’s going to really benefit the community,” said board chair Kathryn Burton. “Not just the people who live in that general vicinity, but the people who drive by and walk through there to see nice landscaping.”

Planning work started on the project after a group of neighbors came to the Torrey Hills Master Association asking what could be done about the barren lot in the middle of their community. The Torrey Hills Maintenance Assessment District (to which homeowners pay assessments for services above what the city provides) is flush with funds for this kind of project.

As they approved their budget in January, the board was projected to have $1,219,946 in reserves and $597,238 in 2011. As the city mandates that reserves aren’t allowed to grow any more than a certain excess amount, it makes sense to use the money for community improvement or risk having it taken away, member Guy Ravad said.

The preliminary budget is $95,000 to $100,000.

“There’s really plenty of money in that budget,” Ravad said.

Fagan said they were very limited about what could go into the property, as space has to be reserved for SDG&E and it is part of the protected, environmentally sensitive portion of the city’s Multi-Habitat Planning Area. It directly borders the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve.

“There are lots of constraints with the MHPA and really the only thing we can do is a restoration,” Fagan said.

City Ranger Gina Washington helped select a native plant palette, plants such as Del Mar manzanita, long-stem buckwheat, yellow lasthenia flowers, white sage, black sage and pretty purple flowering blue-eyed grass.

The plan also includes bringing in some stacked native rocks and boulders, and a decomposed granite trail will go through the property linking trails across the street with canyon trails.

In one area of the lot that is out of the MHPA, the plan includes a trellis area where people can sit and look out over the canyon.