Lifeguard facilities called top priorities

Mayor Jerry Sanders presented the San Diego City Council with a proposal for private financing of $103 million in order to jumpstart long-stalled maintenance projects around the city, including lifeguard facilities at the Children’s Pool and La Jolla Shores.

At an April 1 meeting, Council members voted 5-3 to delay a decision until April 22 in order to review specific information about the disbursement of funding.

“There’s a significant backlog of deferred maintenance in the city and (planners) tried to pick the projects that were the most pressing,” said Council President and District 1 Representative Scott Peters.

The interim funding package is part of a two-year, short-term, private financing option, which Sanders intends to repay with a public loan with lower interest rates and a longer finance term.

The city’s wobbly financial situation has made it virtually impossible to secure public credit, resulting in many projects being halted mid-stride.

Under Sander’s proposal, much needed repairs to streets, storm drains and facilities would extend through fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

Listed among the projects specific to La Jolla are roofing projects for Fire Station 9 and the senior center, design and construction of the lifeguard tower at the Children’s Pool, construction of the already-designed La Jolla Shores lifeguard tower and a new apparatus door at Fire Station 16.

“It’d be a good thing for La Jolla,” Peters said, adding that the two lifeguard facilities urgently need to be replaced.

The tower at the Children’s Pool was condemned in March, forcing lifeguards to operate from a temporary building. The loss of their elevated view requires additional manpower so that the entire coastline can be kept under surveillance.

At the April 3 meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, trustees approved an Extension of Time for the La Jolla Shores lifeguard tower station coastal development and site development permits, despite concerns from citizens about the safety and design of the facility. The CPA added a request that city officials consider archaeological monitoring and the possibility of using other materials on the building’s exterior to better match existing structures in the area.

In response to public comment that denial of the EOT would give the community time to reconsider the project, Operations Sgt. Ed Harris of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division said, “I am very fearful that if we miss this extension, we’ll miss this project.”

Harris said working conditions for the lifeguards have been substandard for some time. In addition to burst pipes, barred windows, use of the same room for meals and medical care, lack of privacy for dressing and showering, an employee from SDG&E found a carbon monoxide leak.

“The lifeguards told me they’ve had headaches for months,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to pass (on) to you the urgency I see. Please. Do what you can to push this project through.”

Peters said he anticipates the Council will vote in favor of the interim funding when it comes back for a vote on April 22.

“I think it’s an important thing to do,” Peters said. “I think the mayor deserves credit for bringing this forward.”