City weighs in on La Jolla Rec Center playground plan: Hoping for community funds to see it through

The long-discussed La Jolla Rec Center playground renovation could be a reality in about five years, depending on how much the City is involved. To provide insight into the project from the City’s point of view, San Diego Parks Department planner Meredith Dawson spoke at the La Jolla Parks & Recreation Advisory Group (LJRAG) meeting, Nov. 28.

LJRAG’s Visioning Committee is handling the playground renovation, and will continue to work with the City’s Park & Recreation Department on the permits, schedule and, if needed, funding.

Thus far, Dawson said, the City has decided to view the playground upgrade as three separate projects: 1) hard-court repair, 2) the bocce ball court installation and 3) a complete overhaul of the playground.

“The idea with having it be three pieces is that we could get these done sooner rather than later. If you pile everything up into one big daunting thing it becomes harder to tackle,” Dawson said. “We will do as much as we can as the City’s Park Department to get approvals for things. We will also talk more to the Visioning Committee about what you need to fund on your own.”

The plan thus far is to have the three projects largely privately funded.

LJRAG chair Mary Coakley-Munk explained: “If it’s a community-funded project, it should be done in about three years, hopefully, less. If it’s a City-funded project, you’re looking at a minimum of five years. Plus, if it were to be a City project, there would be the added expense and time of going through the Public Works Department, which is why we hope we can get the financial support from the community.”

However, should the project need City funds, Dawson said that’s an option that can be decided later.

One proposal is to have the first two projects be City-funded and the playground overhaul be community-funded or a public-partnership. In terms of scheduling, Dawson said there would be a 1-year conceptual design-vetting process, which would mean community outreach to see what people want; and another 1-year period to draft all the construction design documents.

“Then it takes 2-3 years to build a brand new park, and that’s what you’ll get here in La Jolla,” she said. “What will help this project go quicker is local fundraising. Fundraising will be huge.”

In the meantime, City funding has been identified for fiscal year 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019) to repair the hard courts, including the basketball courts that have deep cracks, which have been temporarily patched.

“(Repairs) will entail grinding a few inches down and resurfacing to get the courts safe and smooth,” Dawson explained. “We all agreed that rather than wait for the larger playground project, let’s get the courts that are used every day repaired and improved, and we will do that this fiscal year.”

The City will also look at adding some multi-use court striping for other sports, such as futsal, pickle-ball and basketball.

Soon after, the City will look at installing a temporary bocce ball court on the front-yard lawn parallel to Draper Avenue, which was approved in late 2017 at the request of residents. The court would be would considered “temporary,” because it would be made of decomposed granite. Should the court be successful and demand merits it, a permanent court would be installed as part of the park overhaul project.

The Visioning Committee will continue to meet regularly with City representatives, and at its next meeting, City civil engineers and experts in ADA-compliance will be in attendance to assess the site.

Dawson concluded: “I don’t want you to feel like you are spinning your wheels any more. 2019 is going to be very exciting.”

The next Visioning Committee meetings are 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Dec. 11 and 18 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

In other Rec Center news

Squash anyone? When the playground renovation hits the overhaul phase, some residents would like to see an enclosed squash court (that could also be used for other purposes) installed on the playground. Access Youth Academy founder Greg Scherman spoke in favor of the installation.

“We’ve been coming to this park since my children were infants, and we love it here,” he said. “I think of this park as a field of dreams, and we all know how that goes: If you build it, they will come. We would like to see a public squash court. We have public basketball courts, tennis courts, bocce ball and pickle ball courts in the works, so there is good reason to have a squash court now.”

Played in 180 countries, squash courts are typically 21 feet wide and 30 feet long, but could be adjusted for multi-use. While there are public squash courts in New York, there are no other outdoor public courts in San Diego. A location would need to be confirmed, pending outreach to the adjacent La Jolla Tennis Club and meeting with the Visioning Committee.

Officers elected: A slate of officers for next year’s LJRAG board and the affiliated 501(c)3 board were elected. Dan McCandless was voted LJRAG chair, Coakley Munk was voted vice-chair and Jan Harris was voted secretary. For the 501(c)3 board, Coakley Munk was elected chair, Peters was elected vice-chair, Harris as secretary and Gail Forbes as CFO.

Leaning tree: To resolve the issue of the tree on the grounds that is leaning toward the Rec Center building, San Diego area manager Rosalia Castruita reported that it had been adjusted, stabilized and trimmed to balance the weight to keep it from leaning further.

Lights out: San Diego Park & Rec district manager Marilyn Stern reported that the electrical upgrade project was almost complete, but in the course of the work, an “issue” arose. “When crews were finishing the electrical work, we discovered that two light poles are disconnected and do not light up,” Stern said. “We told crews, ‘they were working when you got here,’ but we had to modify the construction contract to add this repair.”

The work is scheduled to begin Dec. 17 and take four weeks. Construction areas will be closed off during this month.

— La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group does not meet in December. The next meeting is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

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