Safdie Rabines to return as Cove Pavilion project consultants: Construction on new restrooms for Scripps Park slated for 2018

To keep the La Jolla Cove Pavilion (restroom facility) project on track and completed in accordance with community wishes, La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group voted to bring architects Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines of firm Safdie Rabines on board as advisers. The discussion took place during the board’s Jan. 23 meeting at La Jolla Rec Center.

LJP&B member Judy Adams Halter, who spearheaded the pavilion project, said, “Safdie Rabines has agreed to work with us in a consultant role. With their help, we’ll have a much better looking facility. … This is such a wonderful park that we want to leave it in the best hands.”

The pavilion plan was introduced in January 2014 and proposed as a public-private partnership. The current, 50-year-old facility has 10 toilets in single-sex restrooms and one unisex facility, and the new restroom pavilion is proposed to have more (approximately 17) toilets, predominantly in unisex stalls. The facility will also feature benches, outdoor showers, ADA-compliant toilets and showers, and storage for beach equipment.

In November 2014, the San Diego Regional Park Improvement Fund committee voted to pay for the entire construction process.

When the restroom facility was planned as a public-private partnership, Halter raised funds and contracted for Safdie Rabines to create the schematic designs. These were presented to the community and LJP&B multiple times in 2014 and 2015 to gather feedback before handing the plans over to the City for implementation. However, an opinion from the San Diego City Attorney rendered in 2016 states it would be a conflict of interest for any firm that designs a project to bid to execute its construction, so the City contracted Mosher Drew to finish the project.

In November 2016, City project managers and architects from Mosher Drew presented their schematic designs, but LJP&B was less than impressed. At the time, Mosher Drew architect Bill Magnuson said changes included the orientation of the facility in the park, the amount of space dedicated to trash facilities, the removal and replacement of the surrounding trees, materials that would be used and aesthetic elements. City Project Manager Elizabeth Schroth-Nichols said input from Safdie Rabines — and the feedback received from the community meetings — was considered in the design.

At the most recent meeting, LJP&B chair Dan Allen said, “We were all very excited about Safdie Rabines’ original design and concept, and what was presented to us (from Mosher Drew) didn’t quite match up with that. Going back to the Safdie Rabines design, with the permission of the current architects, will spiff it back up to the caliber of what we saw in the first designs.”

LJP&B member Debbie Beachum opined, “We had all this public input on the Safdie Rabines design and then the City pulled the rug out from under them (with the ruling the architects could not finish the project).”

At the January meeting, Halter told the board, “We’re not happy with the way it looks and how it was presented” and that a meeting with representatives from Mosher Drew, Safdie Rabines and LJP&B was scheduled “to talk about what they can come up with” to bring the design back in line with what the community approved. “They are going to try and create an aesthetic of lightness, airiness and blending-in with Scripps Park, which was the original thinking.”

LJP&B member Sally Miller emphasized, “It’s so important that this ends up not being ugly ... something we have to stare at for the next 50 years, smacking our foreheads for the way it turned out. There are so many things you see around town that are concrete (which is what Mosher Drew presented), but beautified in some simple, maintenance-free way, that can be easily done.”

Confident that the construction schedule would not be interrupted, the board unanimously authorized an agreement with Safdie Rabines for their consulting services on aesthetics. City project managers said they would like to begin construction “at some point in 2018.” Following the meeting with the newly approved consultants, updated plans would be presented.

In other LJP&B news

Donations policy: Following at least one request for a donation refund, LJP&B decided to refine its policy on charitable gifts. According to its bylaws, the board may raise funds for park-and-beach-related projects.

“We had a donor to the Children’s Pool Walk beautification project (which, following private fundraising, was taken over and will now be funded by the City) who wanted his money back,” Allen said. “Not to mention the fact that when a project is done, it won’t be down to the last nickel of what was given for it, so there might be excess. With the questions that have come up, we decided to draft a policy on charitable contributions.”

A draft was circulated and it was tentatively posed that should a project not come to fruition, or if there are funds leftover once a project is complete, the remaining money would go to the LJP&B general fund to be used for other projects (aka an unrestricted gift). Halter, who assisted with writing the new policy, said, “A donation would be earmarked for a certain project, but the donor would have to realize that something might happen to that project along the way, so if they care about the parks and beaches of La Jolla, there are so many other projects their donation could fund.”

However, some members questioned whether that would deter potential donors. “When you have major donors who can give for a specific project (something they are specifically interested in) and are told, ‘but we might use it for our general fund,’ that donor is not going to go for that. You might get donations of $1,000, but I don’t see you getting the big checks with that kind of a policy. When we raise money and solicit donors, they picture something concrete and in their minds, they see it as a legacy they can leave in La Jolla. When that changes, the person’s frame of mind might change. It’s going to be a hard sell,” said Mary Ellen Morgan.

An idea offered was to have any donation under $1,000 automatically be considered unrestricted (going into the general fund if it could not be used for a designated project). Anything over that, the donor would be given the choice to have it be unrestricted or restricted (refunded or redistributed), and proceed from there. After some discussion, the board opted to clarify the policy, and present it for vote at a future meeting.

Whale View Point: LJP&B member Bob Evans, representing the Whale View Point Shoreline Enhancement Project committee, said he would like to plant some “experimental” ground cover as part of the re-vegetation component. “There is the thought that what is already there (known as pickle-weed) can contribute to erosion, so we want to add something drought-resistant that is more indigenous so it will look better, work better, deter erosion and keep the plants we re-planted in place,” he said.

A plot near 300 Coast Blvd., the Wedding Bowl and some hillside areas in between have already been re-vegetated. Black Sage Environmental, the natural resources management firm that has carried out other re-vegetation projects, will “plant-test” four different types of ground cover in bare areas within Whale View Point to see what takes root and works.

LJP&B member Patrick Ahern added, “The benefit here is, once we find plants that work in this setting, we can plant them all up and down Whale View Point, at Scripps Park and WindanSea. We can take out ice plant and other plants that are not indigenous.”

Bylaws in limbo: After meetings in 2015 and 2016 dedicated to revising its bylaws, LJP&B submitted its draft bylaws to the City of San Diego for approval in August 2016. However, the board has yet to hear back, leading Allen to joke, “The City (department we are working with) intended to approve them by the end of the year, but they didn’t say which year, so we are stuck in limbo between our old bylaws and our new bylaws.”

La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets 4:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollaparksandbeaches.org

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