La Jolla Rec Center Update: Skate park plans squashed, Park & Rec board hears three alternative ideas

Prospect Street residents who live near La Jolla Rec Center showed up en masse at the La Jolla Park & Rec (LJPR) board meeting Aug. 23 to voice their opposition to a skateboard park being considered as part of the playground renovation plans. Details of the renovation project were also discussed and new playground layout configurations were presented.

After much discussion about the skate-park, the board voted unanimously to reject the proposal.

LJPR announced its plans to renovate the playground (which has 35-year-old play equipment and is not ADA-compliant) in November 2016, and then collected community feedback at a forum in December. Since then, it has discussed various plans and welcomed new presentations at each of its monthly meetings. One idea to come forward was the addition of a skateboard park. The board released a survey to determine playground changes the community would like to see, and reportedly, the skate-park had “great support.”

Of the skate-park proposal, acting chair Mary Coakley Munk explained, “Because we are a community center, everyone has the right to present whatever they would like to see here, so the skate-park was discussed because residents wanted it. But now we have to make a decision based on what is best for the community.”

Trustee Gail Forbes added, “One of the reasons we continue to talk about the skateboard park is we had a strong presentation earlier this year and there was a very good response and great support from our survey respondents. There was also the thought that young children on Big Wheels or tricycles would have a place to ride that is legal, safe and under supervision. Those things might be possible, but not so in the acreage we have to work with at the Rec Center.”

Still, residents in attendance argued that a skate-park would change the character of the community and the Rec Center, as well as increase noise and discourage certain age groups from using the facility.

A motion to deny the installation of a skateboard park at La Jolla Rec Center was made and passed unanimously. “There will be no further discussion of improving the Rec Center that will include any plans for a skate park,” Coakley Munk concluded.

Plans on the drawing board

As for the playground renovation as a whole, the board previously discussed whether to keep the footprint as it is, but space out equipment to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, or completely reconfigure the grounds to maximize play space and add new game courts.

Coakley Munk said the “early estimate” for the project is $2 million to $3 million, and the board has approximately $50,000 in the bank. The previously-reported $350,000 “commitment” toward the renovation was orchestrated by former LJPR chair Cindy Greatrex. With her resignation earlier this year, the commitment is apparently void. “Our hope is that this project will be entirely privately funded. As soon as you take a nickel from the City, the project becomes three times more expensive and takes four time longer,” Coakley Munk said.

Leaning toward rearranging the playground, architect and La Jolla native Trace Wilson presented three renderings, largely differentiated by the placement of the basketball courts. Coakley Munk noted to attendees that these plans were not final and “nothing is set in stone,” in terms of which architect or which plans the LJPR board will pursue.

“I used to play at the Rec Center when I was a kid,” Wilson told the board. “My grandmother would bring me here, so this place has a special place in my heart. One of the most fascinating things about the Rec Center is its history. In 1915, when this place opened, Rec Centers were very important because both parents were working and children would play in the streets, there was nowhere safe to play.”

Wilson’s plans include more shading and seating, and a proposed traffic circle where Prospect Street, Draper Avenue and Silverado Street meet. He also proposed adding a café or kiosk onsite so parents can grab coffee or lunch while they watch their children. Other alternatives could be a “history path” to pay homage to the Rec Center, and a water feature that would be a nod to the wading pool in place when the Rec Center first opened.

Wilson offered three layout scenarios: 1) Push the basketball courts to the south toward the tennis court to allow for an additional court or play structure. 2) Push the basketball courts closer to the Draper Avenue edge and consolidate the playground/tot lot in the center, preserving the green multi-use field. 3) Take out some of the green field and move the basketball courts closer to Cuvier Street to open up play space in the center of the playground. (The renderings will soon be posted at reviveljrc.org)

However, each proposal affects a selection of residents opposed to a respective option due to noise. For example, those who live along Prospect Street do not want to see the courts moved closer to their homes, reporting they can already hear games in play.

The board did not vote on any set of plans, but agreed to gather community input on the layouts and proceed from there to determine theme or design.

They are considering another community meeting, similar to the forum in December, at which the layout plans can be presented and voted upon to be sure the community-at-large has a change to weigh-in. Details will be forthcoming and reported in La Jolla Light.

Residents can learn more about the playground and provide their feedback at: reviveljrc.org or reviveljrc@gmail.com

In other LJP&R news:

Senior Dance changes: To better accommodate La Jollan’s holiday schedules, the Senior Winter Dance will be moved to November and renamed the Fall Dance. Pending City approval, the tentative date is Nov. 17.

Goodbye Bridge dinners: The popular monthly Bridge game and social dinner was canceled following the resignation of its instructor. Unless another instructor can be located, the gathering will be canceled permanently. Those interested can call Rec Center director Nicole Otjens at (858) 552-1658 for more information.

Hopscotch, maze coming: As part of a Girl Scout Silver Award project, La Jolla Scouts Ari Conboy and Jamee Newman presented plans to paint a hopscotch court and walkable maze on the Rec Center blacktop. The hopscotch court will be 12- to 16-feet long, with each square 18- to 24-inches wide. The maze would be 18 feet in diameter. The Scouts have a Sept. 30 deadline for completing the project, which “must leave a lasting impact and benefit the community.” The Scouts said they would carry out the project now, with the understanding that the playground will be renovated and their work likely torn out. They agreed to return following the renovation to replace the courts if appropriate.

La Jolla Park & Rec board next meets 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27 La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. reviveljrc.org

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