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La Jolla planners applaud Recreation Center renovation plans

A rendering of the planned La Jolla Recreation Center renovation
Architect Trace Wilson presents a rendering of the planned La Jolla Recreation Center renovation to the La Jolla Community Planning Association during its June 2 meeting.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The La Jolla Community Planning Association lent its support to a “more significant phase of design” for the planned La Jolla Recreation Center renovation during its June 2 meeting, a step to move forward a project that has been in the conceptual phase for years.

“We’ve come a long way in the last two years, and we wanted to show everyone where we are,” said La Jolla architect and urbanist Trace Wilson, a member of the Visioning Committee of the La Jolla Community Recreation Group, the advisory board for the Rec Center. “The last time we were here, we had a conceptual design … and now we’re just past the schematic design phase.”

He said plans include renovating the main building at 615 Prospect St., creating a rooftop deck, opening up the south side of the property to create what Wilson calls “the La Jolla pavilion,” adding a coastline-themed playground along Draper Avenue, pushing the basketball courts closer to the tennis courts at the next-door La Jolla Tennis Club, creating a mural wall, rebuilding a historical trellis to provide shade, creating a splash pad similar to the wading pool that was once on the grounds, renovating the front lawn, adding new courts for various sports and more.

He said a little-used basement would be converted to a gym, and a loft would be converted to a meeting room “that looks down into the auditorium.” An elevator would connect all three levels.

“The proposed plan brings a corridor through the building for the first time, so one could come from Prospect Street and come through the building to the playground with a trellis for parents and caregivers,” he said.

The Rec Center opened in 1915 and was originally commissioned by La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps and designed by famed architect Irving Gill.

Wilson said he and the Visioning Committee have done “a tremendous amount of research about Irving Gill’s architecture and what he used in terms of regional architecture and his modern use of materials,” which would influence the design. Thus, the original Gill architecture, the auditorium and the front loggia would remain.

A rendering depicts a renovated La Jolla Recreation Center.
(Courtesy of Trace Wilson)

With the more refined plans comes a $36.6 million price tag. The building renovation accounts for $9.5 million of that, with playground changes costing $16 million. Other site work and costs such as contingency, inflation, furniture and equipment round out the total.

A firm timeline for the project has not yet been established, though Wilson said a fundraising brochure would be released “very soon” and that he’s hoping for completion “in 2025 or so.”

Responding to a question from LJCPA trustee Greg Jackson about whether the work could be phased in or would be done all at once, Wilson said the plan has a phasing strategy and that work would start based on available funding.

“The building could be one phase, the field could be one phase, the courts and playground could be one phase and the front could be one phase,” Wilson said.

Trustee Janie Emerson called it “a really exciting project and something the core of La Jolla really needs.”

Resident Andrea Russell, a parent of a 7-year-old, called the project “absolutely beautiful” and said “I love the research and incorporation of historic elements. … This would be a world-class facility.”

A motion by trustee Patrick Ahern to support the concept “in principle” to move it forward passed unanimously. Pieces of the renovation ultimately will go back before the board for approval.

Other LJCPA news

Candidates forum: Ahead of a special election to fill a board vacancy next month, LJCPA presented a candidates forum June 2. Two candidates are vying for the seat: Island Architects principal owner Lisa Kriedeman and Bishop’s School director of facilities Brian Williams.

Kriedeman said she has worked in La Jolla for 25 years, which “has given me a lot of insight as to what works well and what doesn’t as it relates to the development of La Jolla.”

As a trustee, she said, she could “provide assistance interpreting [city] regulations” regarding projects before the board and “provide balance between private motives and what is best for the community.”

She said she wants to “preserve the beauty and unique aspects of what makes La Jolla the special place that so many of us are fortunate to live and work in.”

Williams, a La Jolla native, said he knows “the history of La Jolla pretty well” and is “comfortable working with various boards, committees, commissions, councils. [I] am what I consider to be a good collaborator.”

He said the board does “very, very important work” and that La Jolla is “on the cusp of some very exciting changes that I would like to be a part of.”

Emerson, co-chairwoman of the election committee, said eligible voters will be emailed a ballot Wednesday, June 15. Voters are asked to print it out, cast their vote and mail it back. Ballots must be received by noon Thursday, July 7, so they can be counted and the results announced at a meeting that evening.

Consent agenda: Due to a clerical error, a home project at 1542 Copa de Oro was not listed on the meeting’s original consent agenda to be approved without a presentation or discussion. But it was added, and the consent agenda was adopted as amended.

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee determined May 10 that the project substantially conforms to a previously approved permit. LJCPA ratified those findings.

On the other hand, the Gravilla Townhomes project planned for 6710 La Jolla Blvd., at the corner of Gravilla Street, was pulled from the consent agenda so a full presentation can be given in July.

That proposal calls for a coastal development permit for a new two-story building with 12 for-sale condominiums — including one affordable for people of very low income — with 13 below-grade parking spaces with car stackers. The nearby alley is to be expanded.

The DPR Committee gave the project its support May 17 on its third hearing.

Local grants: Spencer Katz, representing the office of San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, said several local entities had received financial support from the county. Specifically, $25,000 was granted to La Jolla Playhouse for its arts outreach and youth mentoring; $15,000 to the La Jolla Historical Society; $25,000 to Golden Triangle Rotary to support its Afghanistan refugee relief resources; and $15,000 to various La Jolla businesses to help in their reopening from COVID-19-related restrictions.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 7, likely online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org. ◆