Children's Pool Lifeguard Tower may go partially underground

Architects and engineers said "can do" to La Jollans' directive for them to "go underground" in redesigning Children's Pool Lifeguard Tower.

"You indicated you wanted to go below plaza level," said James Robbins, principal with RJC Architects, the consultant working on the lifeguard tower's redesign. "That's a great idea that might offer a way out to satisfying everyone's concerns, redeveloping the area below the plaza."

Robbins, however, cautioned the Coastal Commission won't allow expansion of the present area underneath the plaza.

Robbins was joined by city engineer Jihad Sleiman in addressing the July 30 meeting of La Jolla Town Council's Parks & Beaches Committee and presenting their revised proposal for the controversial redesign of Children's Pool Lifeguard Tower.

The current Children's Pool Lifeguard Station, built in the '60s, is outdated and undersized. Updating the station has been planned for seven years, but progress on it has been stalled due to the city's financial crisis and inability to seek bonds.

La Jolla community planners have told the city they don't want any new lifeguard station to be any larger than twice its current 732-square-foot size. They've also suggested the city explore undergrounding much of the lifeguard tower's redesign to make it less visibly obtrusive, while accommodating lifeguard's space needs.

San Diego Lifeguard Lt. John Greenhalgh said the new, redesigned lifeguard tower should be large enough to accommodate future growth and house all needed services and facilities under one roof.

"We gave the city (our) operations needs for this town for 30, 40 years into the future," said Greenhalgh. "It's the architect's job to make sure we're getting it that way."

Greenhalgh noted the new building has to have both male and female locker room and restroom facilities. There also needs to be space for lifeguard officers to meet with both employees and the public.

"We need a kitchen that has a secondary observation post," Greenhalgh added. "We have to have a first-aid room with direct access to the public."

Greenhalgh added the new facility is required to be accessible by the disabled.

Responding to suggestions that much of the office space lifeguards need could be located somewhere other than the Children's Pool site, Greenhalgh said: "We need everything confined to one location."

Robbins said the current lifeguard tower redesign proposal calls for a three-story facility with restroom stalls on the lowest level with an elevator to facilitate access to higher levels. The lowest level would also house new lifeguard locker rooms as well as a laundry room. The middle level of the redesigned lifeguard tower would contain a first-aid room and offices. The uppermost level would house the lifeguard's observation tower.

Bird Rock resident Darcy Ashley gave kudos to the city and its consultants for their efforts. "Thank you for listening to the community on directing that underground space be used as much as possible," she said. "That's the direction we wanted to move in."

Ashley suggested the lifeguard tower could be redesigned with a Spanish style resembling nearby Casa de Manana retirement center, or some other architectural theme to make it distinctive and blend in with its surroundings.

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