Rec Center renovation gets two more nods, PDO and T&T boards approve

The preliminary proposed site plan for the La Jolla Recreation Center, as announced in February.
The preliminary proposed site plan for the La Jolla Recreation Center, as announced in February: A) two new bocce ball courts along Prospect Street; B) Cuvier will be vacated to create more park space; C) better shade throughout; D) a new unified playground space; E) new basketball courts.

The proposed La Jolla Rec Center renovation got two steps closer to starting, when the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance committee and Traffic & Transportation advisory board each gave unanimous approval to the plans at their respective meetings.

The designs, as assembled by architect Trace Wilson and the La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group Visioning Committee, have been making the rounds to local community planning groups for feedback. Thus far, the Development Permit Review committee and La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group have each given conceptual approval.

As part of the renovation of the 105-year-old Rec Center at 615 Prospect St., Wilson was tasked with upgrading the building and playground while maintaining historical elements protected under the La Jolla Community Plan.

The outdoor recreation space would be rearranged to move the basketball courts toward the tennis courts at the La Jolla Tennis Club, develop a T-shaped playground with new ocean-themed equipment closer to the front of the building, improve seating and add a trellis element for shade with a variety of trees.

Changes to the building would include a stairway and/or elevator to increase access to the mezzanine level and a rooftop deck overlooking the ocean and the play fields. Wilson also suggests opening up the basement for use.

La Jolla PDO

In his presentation to the PDO board July 13, Wilson said the committee sought to understand the history of the site in depth and recruited the help of local historian Diane Kane. They then sought to understand the needs of the immediate neighbors, and spent six to seven months speaking to representatives from entities such as Bishop’s School, nearby condominiums and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego to see how the renovation would affect them. Then they had a public charette to gather public feedback as to what the Rec Center should look like in the future.

La Jolla’s Planned District, which is the purview of the PDO board, includes The Village’s “Cultural Zone,” which includes the Rec Center, Bed & Breakfast Inn at La Jolla, La Jolla Historical Society, La Jolla Woman’s Club, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, The Bishop’s School and The Cuvier Club.

The Cultural Zone was La Jolla benefactress Ellen Browning Scripps’ “vision as the optimum progressive community” Kane said, “that was enshrined in the first community plan in 1947, and has been carried forward as a special part of La Jolla.”

After reviewing its history, the board looked at what would remain, such as the structure of the building itself; and what would be “enhanced,” such as lighting and vegetation.

After learning about the proposed changes to the Rec Center, PDO member Bob Steck opined, “I think this looks awesome, I love how you are incorporating historical elements as well.”

PDO chairwoman Deborah Marengo added that the plan looks “great” and thanked the board for the presentation.

A motion to have the PDO formally endorse the project as reviewed in detail passed unanimously.

Traffic & Transportation

Another component of the Rec Center renovation is to take over and vacate the small inlet of Cuvier Street between the Rec Center and The Bishop’s School for additional green space and courts. Because the parking spaces on that segment of Cuvier would be removed, Wilson proposes re-striping the parking on Prospect Street to be diagonal, similar to those on Draper Avenue, to increase the number of spaces.

“Cuvier over the last 100 years has incrementally been vacated; it’s now mostly part of the Bishop’s School,” Wilson said at the July 15 T&T meeting. “This is the location that we’re expanding the Rec Center amenities into. There are about 26 existing parking spaces on Cuvier, and we’re suggesting that we re-stripe Prospect [Street] for diagonal parking from Draper [Avenue] to La Jolla Boulevard, which actually nets us more parking spaces after removing the Cuvier [Street] spaces.”

He added that residents of the nearby condos, and representatives from Bishop’s School and others have said “that that portion of Prospect is a speedway, and that it would be great to actually calm the traffic along that stretch.”

T&T chairman Dave Abrams commented, “The fact that Bishop’s seems to be behind it is critical. I guess for our purposes, I’d look for our group to support the concept. The thing that’s critical, not just the vacation, but the change of parking from parallel to diagonal along that length of Prospect. We could make those recommendations.”

After a discussion about whether the parking spaces would have a time limit – which Wilson said the committee behind the renovation “would look at” – the board unanimously approved the vacation of Cuvier Street as proposed, and the conversion of parking on Prospect Street from parallel to diagonal from La Jolla Boulevard to Draper Avenue.

The La Jolla Rec Center renovation plans next proceed to the La Jolla Community Planning Association, which meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6 on Zoom. The proposal has an estimated timeline for completion of three to four years once plans are approved and finalized. The cost would be about $6 million to $8 million, but the project committee would like to raise an additional $3 million to $4 million to create an endowment fund.

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