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Drainage and privacy concerns at Scripps Park restroom facility continue seven months after opening

A pool of mud lies next to the showers at the Scripps Park restroom facility.
A pool of mud lies next to the showers at the Scripps Park restroom facility, where runoff mixes with dirt on the patchy lawn.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Drainage and privacy concerns that have plagued the new Scripps Park Pavilion restroom facility adjacent to La Jolla Cove since it opened at the start of the year have continued through the summer, with the city of San Diego looking into fixing the issues as the busy tourist season winds down.

“The drain for the outdoor showers have created a muddy mess all across the front and out into the lawn several feet,” area resident Angela Shaw told the La Jolla Light. “I understand that this structure cost millions to build and it took more than two years to complete. It’s pretty unbelievable that these basic functions weren’t considered in the design.”

Resident Jack Resnick wrote in a letter to the editor published in the Light on Aug. 25 that in a recent three-week period, “two of the three urinals in the men’s shower/changing room have been closed and clogged, and the toilet has had the same problem several times. Water leaks onto the dead and dying grass outside the shower, with a plastic fence around part of the muddy area. … This was supposed to be a state-of-the-art facility and it still isn’t functioning properly. The contractors need to be brought back to fix these issues.”

San Diego spokesman Tim Graham said this week that the city “is working with a consultant who has provided initial designs for drain modifications at the Scripps Park restroom. The designs are currently under review with the Engineering & Capital Projects Department. No definitive timeline has been established for the work to begin.”

The Scripps Park restroom facility is partially fronted by dead grass.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Complaints about the drainage have been going on since the facility, which the city calls a “comfort station,” opened Jan. 21.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches board member John Shannon observed in February that water runoff was causing “swampiness” in the grassy area at the pavilion.

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

Steve Hadley, representing San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, told LJP&B at the time that LaCava’s office was “continuing to monitor the button-up work at the Scripps restroom facility and will continue to push that so staff can do the things they recognize need to be done.”

Another concern cited repeatedly is that the restrooms and changing areas are visible from the street and the nearby La Jolla Cove Suites Hotel. A privacy screen was added to reduce visibility from the street.

Problems that residents cited after the recent opening of the Scripps Park Pavilion restroom facility are being addressed, though others have since come up, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board heard during its Feb. 28 meeting.

But Shaw said the women’s shower and changing area is still “fully visible to anyone staying in the top few floors of the hotel across the street or sitting in the rooftop seating area. I appreciate the addition of the panel to prevent people from looking in from the sidewalk; now something should be done to block the view from above.”

A restroom and changing area at the Scripps Park Pavilion and the nearby La Jolla Cove Suites Hotel
A photo from inside a restroom and changing area at the Scripps Park Pavilion shows the upper floors of the nearby La Jolla Cove Suites Hotel.
(Angela Shaw)

Christina Dice, a supervisor at the La Jolla Cove Suites, said that when the pavilion first opened, there were reports that the restrooms and changing areas were visible from certain hotel rooms. But she said such comments from guests have diminished since the privacy screen was put in.

Nevertheless, Graham said the city is “aware of concerns from the public related to privacy issues at the restroom and will look to address identified issues in the coming weeks with the anticipated slowdown in use after the summer.”

The project to build the Scripps Park Pavilion, a replacement for a previous restroom facility, had been in the works since January 2014. The project demolished the former comfort station and added the new facility, which includes more toilets, unisex toilet stalls, showers, changing rooms, storage space and more.

Construction originally was to begin in the first part of 2019 for an opening in summer 2021, 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.

The widely praised aesthetic design was done by San Diego-based Safdie Rabines Architects — whose other La Jolla projects include UC San Diego’s Scripps Seaside Forum, North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood and Epstein Family Amphitheater — and was funded through private donations before plans were handed over to the city for execution.

Complaints also are dogging the comfort stations at La Jolla Shores’ Kellogg Park.

The south station there has been subject to clogged toilets and general uncleanliness, residents and community leaders say. The north station, which has a shower facility, has had drainage issues.

Repairs on the shower drain at the north station are still awaited as the city gears up to initiate a planned redesign after years of concern. The drain currently allows shower water to run across the sidewalk toward the beach, mixing with sand to create a wet, messy hazard.

The city has proposed moving the drain a few feet toward the ocean, extending it around three sides of the water runoff and connecting it with an existing sand trap that runs to Camino del Oro. ◆