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City promises to begin building lifeguard tower at La Jolla Children’s Pool in June

The city condemned this crumbling concrete lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool beach five years ago. Lifeguards say it poses a safety risk if a chunk of it breaks off and falls to the beach below. Pat Sherman
The city condemned this crumbling concrete lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool beach five years ago. Lifeguards say it poses a safety risk if a chunk of it breaks off and falls to the beach below. Pat Sherman

By Pat Sherman

The long-stalled replacement of the lifeguard tower at La Jolla Children’s Pool will begin this year, said a representative from the office of District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner.

Though the city said last year that demolition of the lifeguard tower — condemned and rendered unusable five years ago — was scheduled to begin in fall of 2012, further delays in obtaining permits and approval from the city and other regulatory agencies continued to push construction behind schedule.

The city now says demolition on the old tower is scheduled to begin sometime in June, after the seal’s pupping season — a projection that has left San Diego Lifeguards Union spokesperson Ed Harris “cautiously optimistic.”

“But I’m not that optimistic,” Harris confided. “Every day people walk by and ask, ‘When is this going to be done?’ We’ve been told every year (it will be done) next year. It’s pretty clear that there wasn’t a desire in the last administration to get it done. ... They got Petco Park done in a shorter period of time.”

The city is currently awaiting approval of an Incidental Marine Mammal Harassment Permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the application for which was submitted Dec. 3. The permit, which is required in case construction causes an unintended noise disturbance to the seals, is under review by the National Marine Fisheries Services, Lightner’s office said.

In addition, the city still must apply for and obtain the building permit for the project — a process that will start in March.

Construction is estimated to take about 220 days. Its target comple- tion date is now December 2014.

In 2011 La Jolla’s community advisory groups unanimously approved suspending La Jolla’s typical moratorium on construction during summer months, to expedite the project’s work schedule. However, all construction must still be suspended during the seal’s pupping season, from Dec. 15 to May 15.

The cost for planning, design and construction of the project is $3.25 million, and will be completed by Stronghold Engineering.

Following condemnation of the old Children’s Pool tower, lifeguards spent five months monitoring the beach from their trucks, until the current platform they are using was brought in as a temporary solution.

Though Harris said lifeguards continue to make due with the platform, he said it is ultimately inadequate to monitor that stretch of coastline, which includes tide pools where children are frequently washed out to sea, cliffs where people are often stranded and one of the city’s most dangerous rip currents, at Shell Beach.

The city says demolition of the old, condemned lifeguard tower at Children's Pool beach will begin in June.
The city says demolition of the old, condemned lifeguard tower at Children's Pool beach will begin in June.

“It’s a lot of water to watch and we need elevation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Harris said he is even less optimistic about the city’s projected fall 2014 start date for construction of a lifeguard tower at La Jolla Cove.

The ongoing construction of the new lifeguard tower at La Jolla Shores has been plagued by problems, he noted. Its tower had to be redesigned due to blind spots built into its observation window, which block peripheral views of the boardwalk. In addition, clear glass was used in the locker rooms, leading to a loss of privacy.

Harris said such problems could have been avoided if the city had consulted a lifeguard during the construction, though the union was told budget cuts didn’t allow for it — an omission he considers “a penny wise and a pound foolish.”

“These are projects that are several million,” he said. “It’s logical ... to have fully engaged a lifeguard from start to finish.”

Perhaps the only good news to arise from delays to the Children’s Pool tower is that it will buy more time for the La Jolla Parks and Beaches group’s sidewalk beautification project on Coast Boulevard. The project will cost an estimated $250,000 — but only if the work can be done at the same time as the Children’s Pool lifeguard tower replacement (to take advantage of the approved contractor). The group has been slow in raising funds for the project and the additional time to solicit grants and donations would serve as a welcome reprieve.

Tax deductible donations to that project can be made to: La Jolla Parks and Beaches Children’s Pool Walkway, C/O La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc., P.O. Box 185, La Jolla, CA 92038-0185 or contact Phyllis Minick at (858) 459-5939.