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Drainage, privacy and supply concerns plague Scripps Park Pavilion’s opening weekend

The new Scripps Park Pavilion is a replacement “comfort station” in the park adjacent to La Jolla Cove.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A list of problems with the new restroom facility is reported to the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board.

La Jolla’s long-awaited Scripps Park Pavilion restroom facility had a soft opening Jan. 21 when the fencing came down and the water was turned on. But by the end of the weekend, a list of problems had been created based on user observations.

The project, which was introduced in January 2014, is a replacement “comfort station” in Ellen Browning Scripps Park adjacent to La Jolla Cove. The project demolished the former comfort station and added a new facility including more toilets, unisex toilet stalls, showers, changing rooms, storage space and more.

A beach-goer uses a shower at the newly opened Scripps Park Pavilion.
(Courtesy of Joan Plaehn)

Among the issues reported at the Jan. 24 meeting of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board:

• The inside of at least one changing room could be seen from the street at certain angles.
• Shower overflow issues caused a muddy area in front of the facility.
• Each bathroom stall holds only two rolls of toilet paper at a time.
• The trash bin storage area is undersized.
• Landscaping is already being trampled.
• Black plumbing pipes are exposed.

Some say black piping in the Scripps Park Pavilion is visually jarring and should be repainted to blend in.
Some say black piping in the Scripps Park Pavilion restroom facility is visually jarring and should be repainted to blend in.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

“It looks lovely and great and is a long time coming for the city, but there were a lot of users that first weekend,” said new La Jolla Parks & Beaches President Bob Evans. “Getting it open was Priority 1 for the project team, and now they are seeing that there are some design and functionality flaws that still need to be addressed. ... I am confident they will continue to listen and will get close to getting it right.”

Changes are underway on the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board, including a new member and a new president.

Having spoken to users and other key interests, Evans said he “compiled a good list of issues” to forward to San Diego city officials, but he wants to have a meeting onsite to thoroughly examine the facility and is collecting additional comments to share with the project team.

Scripps Park Pavilion
Among Scripps Park Pavilion issues reported after its opening weekend was that the inside of at least one changing room could be seen from the street at certain angles.
(Courtesy of Joan Plaehn)

Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, told the Enhance La Jolla board during its Jan. 20 meeting that the pavilion was opening quietly instead of with fanfare because “we’re going to let people use it and see if the plumbing and the showers and everything works when we put a full load of people through there. Then we’ll celebrate the opening.”

The conceptual design was done by Safdie Rabines Architects and funded through private donations before plans were handed over to the city for execution. Construction was originally expected in the first part of 2019 for a summer 2021 opening, but an unexpected redesign of certain features pushed the date back, according to project managers.

Construction issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic also caused a delay. Project updates were given regularly at LJP&B meetings.

LJP&B board member and swimmer John Shannon said he joined the board because of his interest in the project. He blamed the issues on the city’s policy of using “the lowest bids” on construction projects.

“So much work has gone into this … and I’m aware of the problems and it hurt me to see them,” he said. “But if it works for people and looks good, then I’m fine with it.”

Scripps Park's new “comfort station” includes more toilets and unisex toilet stalls.
(Courtesy of Joan Plaehn)

La Jolla resident and former LJP&B member Judy Adams Halter shepherded the project since 2018. “She has been the mother, the overseer and the one that brought these amazing architects that did this design work,” said board member Phyllis Minick.

Adams Halter said after the meeting that she was “very excited that it is finally opened” and that she hopes “some of the little hiccups” will be resolved in coming months.

The Scripps Park Pavilion is in the park area overlooking La Jolla Cove.
“I like the way it looks. ... This is a structure that will hold and be compelling for at least 50 years,” La Jolla resident and former Parks & Beaches member Judy Adams Halter says of the new Scripps Park Pavilion.
(Courtesy of Joan Plaehn)

“It’s really sad that it had to take this long, but I am really happy with the outcome and I would love to see the city use this experience to figure out how to streamline other projects,” she said. “There is room for growth. I’m just thankful that it is done.”

She added that if community leaders had had the opportunity to see the project as it was being built, they might have caught some of the issues before the facility opened.

But overall, Adams Halter said, “I like the way it looks. I like contemporary art and think this is a structure that will hold and be compelling for at least 50 years. It’s different, but this is California and we need to be ahead of the curve.” ◆