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UCSD to tear down lab at Mount Soledad Research Station to launch one-year cloud study

The Mount Soledad Research Station's Laboratory Building 1 is to be demolished.
A view from the Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial in La Jolla shows the Mount Soledad Research Station’s Laboratory Building 1, which is to be demolished.
(Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

A UC San Diego-owned laboratory space on Mount Soledad is to be demolished to make way for cloud and climate research, the La Jolla Community Planning Association heard during its Sept. 1 meeting online.

The requirement for a coastal development permit has been waived and the presentation was for information only, therefore the Community Planning Association did not vote. However, LJCPA President Diane Kane said it was “very exciting” to see the work being conducted.

An “old, dilapidated lab building that has become an attractive nuisance” will be removed to make space for a one-year endeavor in which scientists at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla will have the opportunity “to conduct some exciting, cutting-edge research,” said Anu Delouri, UCSD assistant director of communications and community planning.

The project, known as the Eastern Pacific Cloud Aerosol Precipitation Experiment, or EPCAPE, will involve five research containers with atmospheric data-measuring equipment.

The demolition is expected to take one day, though removal of debris could take up to a week. It is planned to take place in coming months so the research can begin in February.

UCSD principal planner Rae Hartigan and Scripps Oceanography professor Lynn Russell were on hand to explain the demolition work and the research that will follow.

Hartigan said the project will demolish Laboratory Building 1 on SIO’s 9-acre Mount Soledad Research Station just north of the Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial.

The 3,600-square-foot building has been vacant since 2010 and condemned since 2013, Hartigan said, and “there is evidence of vandalism and littering.”

During the construction process, UCSD will put a temporary chain-link fence around the site intended to keep construction materials out of sensitive habitats nearby. The resulting space will mean a reduction in bulk and scale as viewed from the veterans memorial, project representatives said.

A demolition and site plan are shown for a redevelopment project at the Mount Soledad Research Station.
(Courtesy of UC San Diego)

Russell said the research that will be conducted there “will be super important for science because we will be collecting information about this Eastern Pacific cloud deck that extends for hundreds of miles over the ocean and interacts with our coastline. We want to understand how climate change is affecting that super-important cloud deck that keeps us cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter … and how this region will fare as the climate changes.”

The U.S. Department of Energy also is taking instruments to the site to facilitate the research.

“We chose this site because it is unique in terms of its location relative to the cloud deck,” Russell said. “The elevation allows us to sample clouds at key times … and we have the advantage of being downwind of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach so we can sample a huge variety of modern coastal aerosols to understand how they affect our climate and our health.”

The project is expected to conclude in February 2024.

LJCPA trustee Kathleen Neil noted that the area surrounding the lab is “heavily traveled and highly visible, not just to residents but by tourists as well, so anything in terms of improvements to the fencing from a visual point of view is going to be very beneficial.”

Neil also asked what would be done with the site when the research project ends. Delouri said nothing has been determined but added that “it is an active research site” and the coastal development permit waiver notes that additional research could be done there. Should that happen, Delouri said, she would present to local community planning groups in advance.

Some at the meeting advocated creating a walkway or clearing vegetation as part of the development. ◆