Parks & Beaches board updated on reservoir replacement


Expecting a larger-than-normal crowd, and hoping for a reprieve from the unexpected September heat, La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group held its monthly meeting Sept. 26 in the main hall of La Jolla Rec Center, rather than the smaller room one. In addition to the nearly 20 board members in attendance, about a dozen residents turned out for an update on the proposed La Jolla View Reservoir project.

The presentation was the third LJP&B heard for the threefold project that includes 1) demolishing the existing above-ground La Jolla View Reservoir and decommissioning Exchange Place reservoir/pump station, 2) constructing one large underground tank to replace the two that will be demolished, and 3) replacing and extending the Country Club Drive pipeline with a 30-inch pipe (current pipe is 16 inches).

The final design is expected by summer 2017, with contractor procurement planned for fall 2017. Construction will begin in winter 2018, to be finished by summer 2020. The pricetag for the entire project is just under $9.7 million.

The La Jolla View Reservoir is located off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park (near the La Jolla Country Club), and the Exchange Place reservoir is located near the corner of Country Club Drive and Pepita Way. City Public Works Department project manager Ed Fordan explained that the reservoirs were built in 1949 and 1962 respectively, and are no longer able to keep up with water use demands.

The La Jolla View Reservoir is part of the city system of reservoirs that includes Muirlands Pump Station, La Jolla Country Club Reservoir, Soledad Reservoir and Muirlands Pipeline, which all connect to residential areas. The water is pumped from parts of La Jolla and from the Miramar Water Treatment Plant.

“We’re sorry this is happening and sorry for the impact it might have on the community, but it is time to replace these facilities that have aged,” he said.

The excavation of dirt to create a space for the new 3.1 million gallon reservoir, which will also be located off Encelia Drive (east of the current La Jolla View Reservoir), will require approximately 300-500 truck trips over the course of two years, Fordan said, and that a temporary access road would be built to accommodate the trucks.

As the dirt is excavated, it will be moved and mounded to a pre-determined location within La Jolla Heights Natural Park. According to renderings provided by Fordan, the mound would be visible from Pearl Street and Country Club Drive.

Once completed, the trail that cuts through the park would be “returned to nature” and included in open space land, by way of landscaping, but the trail itself would not be restored. There will be a new trail leading from the existing gate to where the new reservoir will be.

Following previous presentations on the reservoir project, LJP&B asked whether removing the decommissioned tank at Exchange Place could allow for a park to be established. In a letter addressed to the City dated March 2016, board chair Dan Allen said LJP&B, “strongly urges the Public Utilities Department and the Parks & Rec Department to transfer of the site of the Exchange Place Reservoir, which is to be closed, to the Parks & Rec Department for dedication as an Open Space Park.”

At the September meeting, the issue was revived. Fordan said once the Exchange Place Reservoir is removed, “We will backfill (the property) to a level elevation similar to what surrounds the current reservoir, and plant the landscape material allowed in the environmental study.”

One resident in attendance asked for confirmation that the City would not have a use for the property after the excavation. Fordan replied, “I cannot say no. That would go through the Public Utilities Department.”

The City project is almost completely designed, but those designs are being reviewed by appropriate departments. Once the designs are approved, Fordan said, project representatives will apply for environmental review. A determination has not been made as to what type of environmental document will be required, such as Mitigated Negative Declaration (which finds there would be no environmental impact) or an Environmental Impact Report (which outlines such impacts). Applicants predict the City will issue Mitigated Negative Declaration, which would be presented to LJP&B for comments and review on upon completion.

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In other LJP&B news:

Cove restroom facility: LJP&B member Judy Adams Halter, spearheading the project to replace the restroom facility at La Jolla Cove, said the project is “moving forward” with Point Loma-based architects Mosher Drew.

The committee and architectural firm Safdie Rabines spent almost two years drafting plans and circulating them for community review before handing them over to the City, which in turn contracted Mosher Drew.

“They are willing to work with the conceptual design we drafted and are very receptive to our wants,” she said. “The City is being very positive as well, they want to use the right materials and they want it to look right.”

No timelines for the project were discussed.

Board nixes support for jazz fest: The board unanimously voted to rescind its support of the proposed winter jazz festival in Scripps Park, following allegations of fraud against the event organizer and the postponement of Bayfest at PETCO Park. Bayfest would have been the first event under RTE Productions (also behind the jazz fest), but it was postponed at the last minute to a yet-to-be-determined date in 2017.

“One of the issues we faced is that the promoter was a novice and Bayfest was supposed to be last week, but his action (postponing the concert) devastated our trust in whether he could pull something off in La Jolla,” said board chair Allen. The board narrowly voted to support the concert in July.

Cove ‘endorsement’ at risk: Citing water quality concerns associated with the sea lion population at La Jolla Cove, the board discussed whether it could continue to confidently endorse the venue for large-scale events there, such as the upcoming Challenged Athletes Triathlon. “I don’t think community groups should be approving events that would put participants in jeopardy with polluted water,” opined LJP&B member Tom Brady.

Alternatively, member John Shannon suggested LJP&B’s role could be to encourage applicants to thoroughly vet their venues. “We can provide them with that information (water quality) so they can make a good decision. I don’t think we should ban them or not approve these events, but we can provide more information to their organizers,” he said. The issue will be discussed further at a future meeting.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets 4:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.