UPDATED: Windows in new La Jolla Shores lifeguard tower distort vision, lifeguards say

The ghost image of people (circled) as well as the sun's glare (both from the south side of the beach), are projected onto the northernmost glass of the Shores’ new lifeguard tower in late afternoon. Lifeguards say this effect makes it difficult to accurately assess the situation in the water. Pat Sherman

NOTE: This story has been amended from its print addition to reflect addition information from the city not available at press time.

By Pat Sherman

The new lifeguard tower at La Jolla Shores has actually made the beach there less safe than it was before the $3.8 million facility opened, said San Diego Lifeguard Union spokesperson Ed Harris.

At several times of the day, Harris said, the lifeguard views from the upper observation booth are being obscured by light distortion, diffraction, refraction, glare and reflection, in part because the proper positioning and type of glass were not used for the windows, he said.

Though in some regards the Shores’ new cantilevered  lifeguard tower could be considered a marvel of modern engineering, Harris said it should be awarded an architectural “onion” because the most important aspect of it — lifeguards’ ability to see the water — is diminished.

“We have asked (the city) on numerous occasions to address those issues,” said Harris, adding that the city is still trying to determine who is at fault. “In the meantime, lifeguards can’t safely watch the water from that observation tower.”

Harris said windows on the sides of the tower were not properly sloped, creating further visibility problems.

“The sun at certain times of the day acts like a projector … taking people on the south side of the tower and projecting their image on the northernmost observation glass, like you’re looking at a TV screen,” Harris said. “It prevents lifeguards from seeing people adequately on the north side (of the beach).”

While lifeguard such as John Kerr (pictured) scan La Jolla Shores beach, their vision is partially obscured. Pat Sherman

In addition, a blur exists in corners where the glass meets, creating distortion akin to wearing eyeglasses with the wrong prescription, Harris said.

John Robinson, a spokesperson for the City of San Diego’s Public Works Department, said the reflection and distortion became apparent after the glass was installed in the summer of 2013.

“Subsequently, two types of window tint were tested on the interior side of the glass windows. While each tint reduced the glare and distortion, it became apparent that further study is required to identify the cause of the problem,” Robinson said, via e-mail, adding that an expert specializing in glazing issues will assess the problem this month. Their recommendation should be implemented by summer, he said.

Lifeguards are having visibility issues with the new La Jolla Shores tower's observation deck, often referred to as the “brontosaurus head.”

To safeguard the public in the meantime, San Diego Lifeguard Capt. Nick Lerma said lifeguards are staffing a portable tower near the new tower during limited times in the afternoon, when the glare problem is present. Lifeguards will continue to monitor the beach from the new tower during that time.

“These measures will provide redundant observational safety coverage until the glare issue is resolved,” Lerma said.

Even with additional staffing in the portable tower, Harris said, “come summertime we’re concerned because we don’t have the proper observation (capabilities) in the main tower. Clearly the Shores is not as safe as it was prior to installing the new tower.”

Harris later said an examination of other lifeguard towers throughout the city reveals that “all of our towers run into an unusual amount of problems … largely due to design, low bid and failure of the Development Services Department.”

Jill Esterbrooks, a spokesperson for the office of District 1 San Diego City Council representative Sherri Lightner, said the city is working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

“At this point we’re trying not to point fingers and do the blame game,” she said of the tower, designed by Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects. ”We’re just trying to figure out what we can do to resolve it so that the lifeguards can do their job and the public can be safe.”

Related posts:

  1. City promises to begin building lifeguard tower at La Jolla Children’s Pool in June
  2. Shore Thing: La Jolla’s lifeguards work 24/7 to keep beaches safe
  3. La Jolla Shores lifeguard, parking projects get underway
  4. La Jolla Shores lifeguards host open house at their new tower
  5. Governor responds to La Jolla Cove stench issue; city plans to vacuum offending bird waste

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Jan 8, 2014. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Comments for “UPDATED: Windows in new La Jolla Shores lifeguard tower distort vision, lifeguards say”

  1. Hypo Critt

    I am not sure which is worse? Spending nearly $4 MILLION dollars for a lifeguard shack or the fact that after doing so you can’t see out of the windows?

    Sure is a good thing these folks have Government jobs as NONE of them would last one second in private practice where you are ACTUALLY HELD ACCOUNTABLE for costs, performance and results………

    This sounds as bad as the 5 year effort to get rid of the stench at the cove too……as they say, those that can DO and those that can’t, find a Governement Job!

  2. Gondo

    Hypo Critt, the City never builds these projects with government workers. They are almost always bid out to private industry.! I’m this one was bid out too.

  3. This article was sent to me by a college classmate living in La Jolla as he thought 3M may have a relatively quick solution. We have an Architectural glass division with a variety of films (not my division) and I have an Anti-Reflection film in my line of products. Perhaps you may be interested. Please check our website and refer to our product, GLR320 (978) 562-2452 (Boston). It may amount to a relatively inexpensive fix.

  4. Localshoresuser

    This latest is obsolutely Hilarious. Another issue on this over price, over engineered, over designed architects ego of a landmark. I watched this project being built from day one it started. Lets talk about construction delay after delay, unprofessional quality control, construction practices and methods that are in par with an elementary school’s gingerbread house.The design and it’s outcropping of storage facilities including a storage garage that had to have it’s roof removed and raised 8″ higher because it wouldn’t fit the new lifeguard trucks. It is now used for jetski trailer storage.
    Lets also talk about how many much needed parking stalls the buildings overtook including all of the over abundant “official vehicles only” parking signs that no one parks in.

    Did anybody on the design planning committee even ask for input from people who actually use the beach on a daily basis? Let’s see, beachgoers, surfers, divers, swimmers, runners, cyclists, dog walkers, baby strollers? Obviously not.

    And BTW Hypo Critt it was built by an out of town private outside contractor. Many days I watched him yell at his young teenage son that he was building it wrong.

    $4 million dollars for this project? Ill be sure and stay clear of the tower when it returns to the sea during a few real high tide/rain parking lot floodings.

    On the bright side, they just started renovation of the north bathroom. Wonder if it included more showers and a better shower drain system so city workers don’t have to spend hours cleaning out the beach sand everyday or how about a people/dog water fountain combo figure that out. Probably not, they spent and lost most of the money on the Lifeguard de’elegance project.

  5. in the know

    locashoreuser, I am somebody who was intamately involved withthis project from day one and I can tell you, your full of you know what. first off, as much as I don’t really care for the GC of this project, as I was a sub, I can tell you, the fault of this cluster was not their fault. blame a bunch of jack ass inexperienced engineers and architects who were over zealous in making a name for them selves and effectively over thought and over engineered every aspect of this job, most jobs have this type of issue to some extent, but none to the extent of this job, coupled with the idiot engineers and architects, the resident engineers and arch team were completely worthless to for see or solve one problem on their own fruition. Don’t blame the hard working private contractors who built this monstrosity, blame the city for trying to built a palace, when they only needed a functional life guard tower. They changed the glass design three times during the project and it still does not work, you should have seen their original design, it would have been like looking out of a fun house glass. Poor engineering, poor architecture, and poor city management it to be faulted here. contractors just follow orders. One thing i can assure you all of, that thing is so overbuilt, there is nothing to worry about it going anywhere, the main building anyways. the tower i thought was stupid from the start, leave the contractors out of this, they did not get rich and are in fact suffering from this debacle.

  6. Jesrel Mitre

    Anit-glare film, simple fix, less than $75K.

  7. Tomcat

    I have never been a lifeguard, but certainly respect the job that they do. That being said, I also have nothing but contempt for the current mantra in this town – that being, “If we want to be a ‘world class city’, we need to have a ‘world class (fill in the blank)’.” This continuously results in anything built by various government entities here being horrendously over-hyped, over-designed, and over-priced.

    However, I do have a question that perhaps someone can answer: When designing this “marvel of modern engineering”, did no one give a second’s consideration to the fact that in order to get down off the tower, the lifeguard must run AWAY from the beach and the water, and, by definition, take his eyes off the person in trouble in order to negotiate the stairs while moving down and toward the parking lot? This seems completely foolish to me; however, I’ll wager that lifeguard tower certainly looks good in Architectural Digest…..

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