La Jolla Parks & Beaches board OKs Cove Pavilion aesthetics: Affirms need for environmental report on reservoir project

La Jolla’s Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group unanimously approved revised design concepts for the exterior of the Cove Pavilion restroom project in Scripps Park, during its Feb. 27 meeting at the Rec Center. The plans had to be revised because the board was unhappy with the project renderings from City-contracted Mosher Drew architects, who presented them in November.

The project was originally designed by architectural firm Safdie Rabines, whose renderings LJP&B approved last year. But after the project was handed over to the City (and subsequently, Mosher Drew) for construction, aesthetic features changed, much to the chagrin of the board. Since then, the two architectural firms worked together to come up with changes to the facility.

City of San Diego Project Manager Elizabeth Schroth-Nichols said the scope of the project is “replace the existing facility with a new comfort station that follows Park & Rec standards and guidelines, including ADA-compliance, and is better suited for the needs of the majority of the users better than the existing station.”

She added that when the project came before the board in November, “We got approval for the schematic plans with the understanding that we had a lot of work to do on the exterior and the aesthetics. We listened to all the comments and collaborated with Safdie Rabines. I’m confident that what we’re here to present will be everything you want in this comfort station.”

Bill Magnussen of Mosher Drew added, “The original concept was to not look at it as a comfort station, but as a pavilion in the park. But we heard our (November) renderings were too utilitarian. We brought in more texture and refined the roof structure to resolve that.”

He said the exterior has been “texturized” to be softer and more natural to “better blend in with the bluffs around it.” Split nearly in half equatorially, the top half will have “board formed concrete texture,” which deters the posting of fliers and is easier to clean and has the appearance of “vertical boards that look like wood, so you pick up some of the knots, the graining and joints between.”

The bottom portion will also be texturized to appear grainy and sidewalls will have cobblestone accents. Examples of these textures and materials will be presented to LJP&B as details become finalized.

The sloping butterfly roof will feature three levels of light penetration. The sections that cover the shower rooms and toilet stalls, will be completely solid to block light from coming through. The middle area will have plastic-plated skylights to allow some filtered light and the outermost portion will be latticed to allow for total uninterrupted light.

With single-sex showers and changing rooms on one side, and unisex toilet stalls on the other, there is a walkway in between with water fountains. On the exterior of side facing Coast Boulevard, high and low outdoor showers will be included so Cove users can shower, rinse off equipment or simply rinse their feet.

The surrounding trees, said City Engineer George Freiha, will be removed and replaced with “good sized” trees, with the support of the Park & Rec Department. Issues with the existing trees include maintenance difficulties (when the flowers and leaves shed, it’s a skin irritant for some), and fears they would not survive during construction. “With their removal, we can improve the location and angle of the station,” Freiha said.

As for a timeline, Schroth-Nichols said after garnering LJP&B approval, “We are going to move forward analyzing what we call the 60-percent drawings, which is what we take to the City’s Development Services Department to start the permitting process. There is some environmental work that needs to be done, and there are permits we need to acquire., but we are looking to go to construction in fall 2018 and (accounting for eight to nine months of work) be complete by mid-2019.”

In other LJP&B news:

Board changes: Following her selection by the election board last month, Ann Dynes was seated as the new chair. Her first order of business was to seat Roger Guillemin (who in 1977 won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) to replace Cindy Greatrex, who resigned due to scheduling conflicts.

By way of procedure changes, Dynes proposed a meeting “consent agenda” for items such as approving the minutes and agenda, and the treasurer’s report. “Any item can be pulled for full discussion, but assuming that doesn’t happen, everything would be cleared at once,” she said.

Dynes added that she would also ask representatives from the 10 working groups that report to LJP&B to let her know in advance if they would like to speak. Previously, the chair would call on each to see if they had a report, which some argued pressured people to speak.

“I would also like to move the meeting back to 4 p.m. About a year ago, we moved it to 4:30 p.m. to allow more working people to join us, but as far as I can tell, that hasn’t happened. If we move it to 4 p.m., even if the meeting is two hours, we would be out by 6 p.m.,” she said. “Finally, I would like to add more information to the agenda when it calls for a vote to better inform people of what will be discussed ... a sentence or two would help.”

Board backs EIR request: In a similar presentation to the one given to the La Jolla Community Planning Association last month, LJP&B member Patrick Ahern requested the board support the drafting of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the upcoming La Jolla View Reservoir Project. Ahern proposed a motion for the EIR requirement, which the board passed unanimously.

The project calls for the demolition of the above-ground La Jolla View Reservoir in La Jolla Heights Natural Park and the decommissioning of the Exchange Place reservoir/pump station near the corner of Country Club Drive and Pepita Way; the construction of a 3.1 million gallon underground tank to replace the two that will be demolished; and replacement of the 16-inch Country Club Drive pipeline with a 30-inch pipe.

It’s expected that 300 truckloads will come and go to excavate the area, with the need to maneuver on a temporary access road to be built through the park over two years. Once complete, the La Jolla Heights Natural Park will be re-vegetated with native plants.

“We have some issues with the City’s plan. This hillside is a beautiful place. To have this natural asset right next to The Village helps make La Jolla a special place,” Ahern said, noting that at its peak are “some of the most amazing views of La Jolla.”

He added he has a lot of questions for the City that have not been addressed, which would have to be broached in an EIR. The City argues it would only need to file a Mitigated Negative Declaration (indicating there would be no major impacts) or other lesser environmental review.

“We believe the project requires an EIR because such a report would look at a few things: Is this project necessary? Is this the best plan that could protect the hillside? How will the plan be monitored? And, what can we do to ensure the plan is followed and the hillside is protected?” Ahern said.

— La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets 4 p.m. Monday, March 22 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.