by Frances O’Neill Zimmerman
At 8:30 p.m. yesterday, July 18, a lot of people milled around the illuminated American flag on the eastern side of the small federally-owned Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in La Jolla, as City Parks and Recreation Department tested a new idea to keep Old Glory flying 24/7 up there year-round.
Members of the La Jolla Parks and Beaches advisory committee had been notified to witness this run-through. I too was invited at mid-afternoon yesterday, as I was one of several who testified at that group’s last meeting against electrification and in favor of keeping the greater Mount Soledad Natural Park a dark park for viewing the night sky and the spectacular 360-degree panorama of the city below. Parks and Beaches chairman Patrick Ahern put off voting on this matter in both May and June, though it was heatedly discussed.
But last night there was a surprise. It turned out we weren’t talking about just lighting the Stars and Stripes. The Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial proposal has morphed — without notice in the press or at any public meeting –into an extravaganza of More Wattage. How much more?
The proposal includes 60 lights recessed in the pavement and directed onto mounted plaques surrounding the base of the circular brick monument that is topped by a controversial Christian cross. And a total of 16 stairway lights, two for each of eight brick staircases that lead to the Cross at the Memorial’s summit. And last, but not least, two lights directed upward onto the American flag.
Electrical contracting for the proposal may be done gratis. But for it to happen requires an easement onto City land and a vote of our City Council. In the crowd someone pointed out Councilwoman Sherri Lightner’s staffer, Erin Demorest. The contractor asked me what I thought. I told him I was astonished at the last-minute additional lighting and believed that light pollution of what is supposed to be a natural park would be the result.
The contractor assured me that if celestial events were scheduled, the lights could be turned off.