$3.8 million La Jolla Shores lifeguard tower faces remodel due to distorted window views

By Ashley Mackin

At the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) monthly meeting Feb. 12, lifeguard Ben Lewis updated the board on measures being taken to improve visibility at the new Shores lifeguard tower, which, during certain times of day, has distorted views that complicate the jobs of lifeguards stationed there. These plans include a redesign and partial rebuild of the $3.8 million tower.

As previously reported in

La Jolla Light

, San Diego Lifeguard Union spokesperson Ed Harris said at several times of the day the views from the upper observation booth are obscured by light distortion, diffraction, refraction, glare and reflection.


At the LJSA meeting, Lewis added that because images bounce off the panes of glass in the observation booth, it creates “ghost images” — people appearing to be on one end of the beach when they are actually at another. “We have to do a double- take sometimes to determine what is real and what is not,” he said.

Further, when the sun sets due west and further and further south (which it does during the winter months), it creates a “blinding” glare off the ocean, which comes straight at the windows.

The windows, in turn, bounce that glare off the other windows, whereas at other towers the angles of the windows bounce any glare onto the ceiling.

Lewis said that because the tower opened during summer, lifeguards could not see nor predict view issues that would arise during the winter months and the change in sunset location at that time.

As a temporary solution, lifeguards spend approximately four hours a day at Tower 32 with a similar vantage point, when the glare and distortion are at their worst.

In the meantime, a remodel is in development for the upper observation booth that would change the glass and its angles, and rebuild the upper booth to accommodate the new angles.

A typical lifeguard tower is built in a hexagonal shape with five panes of glass that meet at about a 15-degree angle that minimizes glare and distortion, Lewis said. The Shores tower has three panes of glass that meet at 90 degrees each, which, in addition to the quality of the glass used, is a likely cause of the problem.

Greg Parkington, a representative for District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, explained at the meeting that Lightner met with the City Attorney’s office and the department of public works regarding the issue.

“Our office subcontracted an optics engineer independent of the designer of the original tower to study that glass in a quick timeframe to ensure whatever solution is implemented is the right solution and we’re not just tearing things down,” he said, adding that they hope to have a solution implemented by the summer. The City Attorney is involved to determine any recourse from the original designer.

In other LJSA news

■ North comfort station cost goes up:

Mary Coakley-Munk, president of the Friends of La Jolla Shores nonprofit group spearheading the new station, suffered a blow when an extra $70,000 was added to construction costs.



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