La Jolla reservoir project’s scope may change again to boost generator power instead of replacing water tanks

The La Jolla View Reservoir is off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park
The La Jolla View Reservoir water storage tank is off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park.

Plans for a new water storage tank in La Jolla Heights Natural Park may be changing again, with the city of San Diego re-evaluating water needs and how to meet them.

After years of asserting that larger water reservoirs are needed, La Jolla resident Patrick Ahern (who long has been involved with a project to replace the La Jolla View Reservoir) told the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board during its March 27 meeting that the project is being “returned to the city for further evaluation” and that a larger generator pump is being considered instead of replacing the tank.

The 720,000-gallon, above-ground La Jolla View Reservoir is off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park above the La Jolla Country Club area. The original plan was to build a new 3.1-million-gallon underground reservoir somewhere in the park to replace La Jolla View as well as the 990,000-gallon, partially above-ground Exchange Place Reservoir a few blocks away, near the corner of Country Club Drive and Pepita Way. Both existing reservoirs and the Exchange Place Pump Station were planned to be demolished.

The La Jolla View Reservoir was built in 1949 and the Exchange Place Reservoir was built in 1909. Both have been deemed unable to keep up with current water demands.

However, Ahern said, “there were some concerns about needing a reservoir that big. There was further concern about there being enough water to serve people and fight fires should there be a power outage. So they added a generator three times as powerful [to the plan] and they determined that might be enough.”

San Diego spokesman Arian Collins did not confirm specifics but said “the city continues to evaluate the La Jolla View Reservoir and surrounding water facilities that serve the La Jolla community. Community input and changes in water demand trends are being considered in the evaluation of project alternatives to effectively provide water services and meet the city’s regulatory and water design standards.”

The reservoir project, in development since 2010, has been making the rounds of La Jolla community planning groups since 2015.

The replacement plan drew vocal opposition from the La Jolla Community Planning Association, natural habitat organizations and others “because of the damage it could cause to this natural park and the impact [the construction] would have on the surrounding residential area,” Ahern said previously.

Many members of La Jolla planning groups requested an environmental impact report to determine how the surrounding park would be disturbed and how those disruptions would be mitigated. However, when a draft report was released, many members found it lacking on traffic abatement, park access, preservation of natural resources and impacts on neighbors during construction.

A working group was formed with members of different planning groups to meet with city officials, suggest changes to the EIR and discuss alternatives. As a result of those meetings, the city put the project on hiatus in April 2021 to allow local groups to make a recommendation on the environmental documents and re-evaluate the area’s water needs.

In June last year, city representatives said the new reservoir would be built on the site of La Jolla View at a much smaller size.

Collins said this week that a revised project scope “will be available to share with the public later this year.” ◆