Interim lifeguard tower draws protests

Community leaders weren’t happy to learn that a temporary lifeguard tower was erected at the Children’s Pool without their knowledge.

The pod-like station, which went up Nov. 7, sits atop scaffolding that gives guards a bird’s eye view of the coast. It will remain up until the new station is built.

Below it sits the existing 40-year-old lifeguard tower, which was condemned by the city about six months ago because it had become structurally unsound.

The tower prompted the heads of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, Promote La Jolla and the La Jolla Town Council to send a letter to Mayor Jerry Sanders calling for adjustments in its “size, height and fencing.”

“This intrusive installation was conceived and designed without benefit of any public input nor consideration of the impact on protected public views and the public’s use of this important coastal access,” the letter says.

‘No notice’

Deborah Marengo, president of Promote La Jolla, said, the tower “is unsightly and it blocks the views from people walking by.”

The city of San Diego was allowed to put the temporary lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool under an emergency coastal development permit that requires the structure to be removed within two years. The city is also being required to submit a regular coastal development permit application within 90 days.

Lt. John Greenhalgh said the temporary tower will save lifeguards a “substantial” amount of money.

“We won’t have to increase our staff,” he said. “Before we had to hire lifeguards to do eight-hour shifts at temporary stations at Children’s Pool and south Boomer Beach.”

Prime location

The temporary lifeguard tower was sited where it is because “that’s the best location to get the views similar to what we had prior to the Children’s Pool tower being condemned,” said Greenhalgh. “The pod at the top covers 270 degrees of water.”

The temporary tower has a 6-foot-high fence around it for security reasons.

Revising estimates

Meanwhile, progress is being made on designs for new lifeguard stations at Children’s Pool and La Jolla Shores even though funding for the two projects has not been found.

Jihad Sleiman, city project manager for both towers, said cost estimates for the Children’s Pool project are being readjusted upward from the original $1.2 million.

“We’ve added a restroom downstairs underneath and ADA (disabled) ramps,” he noted.

The city has placed both La Jolla Lifeguard towers on the high-priority list to receive money once funding sources have been identified, he said.

Crumbling conditions

The station has to be replaced, he explained, because with “harsh ocean conditions, the concrete has cracked and the rebar has deteriorated by as much as 50 percent. Concrete chunks have fallen off under the cantilevered (tower) and the women’s restroom below has been closed because it is unsafe.”

Design work is about 30 percent complete on the new tower and environmental reviews are pending, Sleiman said. Once the tower’s design is complete, it will be judged by a city hearing officer, a decision which can be appealed to the city Planning Commission.

The proposed La Jolla Shores Lifeguard Tower is further along, having already passed through the community and city planning processes. At the end of September, the City Council unanimously denied an appeal brought by concerned La Jollans who argued the proposed 1,485-square-foot lifeguard station’s environmental impacts were overlooked or not compensated for.

Sleiman said he expects design work on the Shores lifeguard tower to be completed by

next August. If all goes well, construction could start in fall 2009 and be completed in 2010.

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Community Blog: What’s going on with the Children’s Pool lifeguard tower?