Form vs Function: Designers, divers discuss Cove Pavilion blueprints

After gathering community input at a workshop in June, Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines of Safdie Rabines Architects unveiled proposed designs for the Cove Pavilion planned for Scripps Park, during a Dec. 8 special meeting of La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJPB). The group makes recommendations to the city’s Park & Recreation Department, Park & Recreation Board, and other park advisory committees on matters involving La Jolla’s parks and beaches.

The item was on the LJPB agenda so divers and swimmers in attendance could offer their feedback, and the discussion quickly became one of form versus function.

With a focus on preserving the view corridor and improving pedestrian flow and circulation, the Cove Pavilion design includes single-sex and unisex bathroom stalls, indoor and outdoor sinks, changing rooms with interior showers, outdoor showers, water fountains, benches, a storage area and the addition of trees. Paths would also be created. The plans must also include a garbage corral, utility closet and storage room. “The idea to consider this structure as a ‘pavilion’ is important, because it’s an asset — more than just a restroom,” Rabines said. “We thought this project was not just about its functional elements — because a building is just a building with four walls — but this project is so much more. The intention is to have views of the ocean be open from the park. The bathroom’s current location (and orientation) blocks some of those views.”

LJPB member Patrick Ahern said that maintaining the view corridor is recommended in a general development plan for Scripps Park that suggests pedestrian and visual access.

Citing the importance of foliage, Rabines said, “There are not a lot of trees around the area and I think trees are very symbolic and give a strong identity to the space.” The designs include trees positioned in a way that they create “the feel of nesting” and the trellising on the structure’s roof would continue that effect — feeling like the branch of a tree — and assisting in preserving the view, Rabines noted.

However, the proposed orientation of the structure and installation of the trees would take up a grassy area considered “sacred” and “a treasure” by SCUBA divers as a staging and gathering point. Several in attendance stated concern that the spot where they used to congregate would be lost should the structure be built as proposed. Some called the space that would remain “useless.” Additional concerns were that with the proposed pavilion’s placement, lines of people would spill out into the staging area.

The proposed facility would be larger than the current one because the number of toilets would increase – although it was unknown at the meeting by how many square feet. Safdie said there are no requirements as to how many toilets need to be in a given area, but based on current usage, planners determined there needs to be more. She said the unisex stalls would hopefully mediate the typically longer lines for women’s bathrooms.

She added that she hoped people would consider the balance of giving up “that little bit of green” for the improved view and better facilities.

The architects said they would consider the comments and feedback, and return at a meeting to be announced. When final designs for the project get the community and LJPB’s OK, Safdie Rabines will hand over the designs to the city for construction. Spearheaded by Judy Adams Halter, the Cove Pavilion project would replace the nearly 50-year-old facility, under the auspices of LJPB. The San Diego Regional Park improvement Fund oversight committee unanimously voted to fund the construction Nov. 20.

In other LJPB news

■ Halter seated as board member: After missing three meetings, member Justin Schlaefli was removed from the board and Adams Halter was seated.

■ New beach signs on the way: Wildcoast’s Zach Plopper brought an example of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) signage that will go up in the new year. He explained there are four MPAs in La Jolla and different restrictions at each one. The signs explain the regulations that pertain to each MPA and would be placed at access points between La Jolla Shores and Scripps Pier. The new signs will have a QR code so those seeking more information can scan the code with their smartphones.

■ Next meeting: La Jolla Parks and Beaches next meets 4 p.m. Jan. 26, 2015 at the La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.