Scripps campus building expansion pleases La Jolla Shores community

The expansion and renovation of the former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fisheries building on the north side of the Scripps campus — aka Building “D” — attracted the attention of the community during the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) meeting, Feb. 8.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Marine Sciences, Steven Gallagher, presented the project in front of an attentive room. “We are hoping to get you a sensitive proposal here, get your feedback and move forward with construction in the facility in the fall,” he said, adding that SIO personnel had been especially careful when planning the impacts on the view corridor from La Jolla Shores Drive.

“Everybody learned from the MESOM building experience,” said La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) trustee Janie Emmerson, who was present at the meeting, referring to the controversy that followed the construction of a a laboratory just south of the project’s site. In 2012, LJCPA requested SIO remove a story from the MESOM building when board members noticed the height of the construction was bigger than the project presented to the community.

Gallagher went over several renderings, site plans and even offered a video to show that the expansion doesn’t affect the view corridor. “We wanted to spend a lot of time looking at the site impact, we drove down the site, walked down the site, so the impact on the views down the road was minimized.”

The project calls for the conversion of the NOAA fisheries building into laboratories for SIO students, and the building of a 100-student forum and classroom, plus a café on the northern side. “The footprint of the café will be hidden behind plants and the existing facility is almost hidden, too, behind trees,” Gallagher said.

The design by local firm Safdie Rabines Architects, Gallagher continued, follows the line of the Scripps Forum for Science (8610 Kennel Way), created by the same company. As for the existing building, which features a Mid-Century Modern style, the only changes will be the installation of safety glass rails and new doors.

The seafood-inspired café will be open to the community and, according to Gallagher, will have outside seating with “the best view from the Scripps campus and probably this area of Black’s Beach.” The rest of the site will also be open to the community, with a “community science visualization facility” where citizens can learn more about the ocean and the research conducted at SIO.

Also, the venue will be available for weekend events, chiefly weddings, Gallagher explained. “It will take some pressure off the Scripps Forum. I think this is going to be significant competition to the Forum because the view is stunning,” he said, adding that having an outside source of revenue will help the institution pay for the building’s maintenance.

Where a concrete parking lot stands now, the project will feature an elevated terrace with underground parking. Native plants will serve as landscaping, and benches and other amenities will be installed.

The site includes a lookout that will be improved and connected to a coastal trail that runs through the Scripps campus.

“I live in La Jolla Shores, too, and I often walk up through campus with my wife. It would be lovely to go up (the coastal path) and continue through this site and then up to the top of the campus,” Gallagher said.

In other LJSA news:

Walter Munk Way: Trustee Terry Kraszewski announced the board’s intentions to designate the street that runs by the La Jolla Shores boardwalk as “Walter Munk Way.” The internationally known SIO scientist will celebrate his 100th birthday this year. “Saying, ‘Thank you for being such a remarkable person’ is a challenge. (We hope this is) a remarkable way,” Kraszewski said. The sidewalk by Kellogg Park, which was recently discovered to be a public street, is currently known as La Vereda, Spanish for pathway.

Short-term rentals, Cove Stench: District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry told the Shores board that she’s working to move the short-term vacation rentals issue forward. “I’m fine if people rent a room in their house to make ends meet, as long as they’re onsite or the owner is on vacation. What I’m against is houses in residential neighborhoods becoming mini-hotels,” she said.

Bry added that she’s been collaborating with Council member Lorie Zapf (District 2) to bring local regulations, and counts on the support of the City Attorney Mara Elliott.

Regarding the sea lion issues at La Jolla Cove, Bry told the board, “The Mayor wants to see the Coastal Management Study by Doyle Hanan before the City takes steps toward dealing with the sea lions. That’s all I feel comfortable saying tonight. But you should know it’s a priority. I think about it almost every day. If we don’t have an answer by April, I have some other ideas.”

The next LJSA meeting is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 at at 8840 Biological Grade. ljsa.org

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