Opinion: Friends of the Riford speak to the community

By Glen Rasmussen

Chairman, Friends of the Riford Center

We want to share some news about our plans to update our entrance to The Riford Center, on the southeast corner of Bonair Street and La Jolla Boulevard that we believe is good news for the neighborhood.

Our community center for adults is in a building is owned by the City of San Diego that is leased by The Friends of the Riford Center.

In 2009, Councilwoman Sherri Lightner assisted in obtaining a federal HUD-funded Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of $207,000 to upgrade the access and interior of the building to comply with ADA standards. Friends was advised by the city that a simple, level side wheelchair entrance though a single door off the wide Bonair sidewalk was allowable under the ADA for existing buildings — it would be an affordable and workable way to bring the building access into ADA compliance. The close property line and the narrow sidewalk at the front of the building were impediments to creating a ramp there.

The city then reconsidered and the Riford Board has expressed its willingness to add a front entry ramp that will allow a single entrance, if the city will allow the sidewalk to be narrowed, despite contrary language in the Land Use Code (in the Planned District Ordinance). According to the City’s latest advice, in order to build the ramp the sidewalk can be narrowed to 48 inches and a deviation from the Land Use Code is not required.

Construction will start very soon; the Riford Center must and will remain open during construction. The side entrance is still needed, because it must be used during construction as an ADA-compliant entrance. Adding the ramp will substantially increase construction costs.

Friends of the Riford Center is an all-volunteer 501c3 organization that aims to make the Riford a physically desirable place for adults of all ages and abilities. Our mission is to provide a pleasant and safe environment, programs and services for adults, lifelong learning, wellness and friendship. We offer free classes to members. (Basic membership costs about $10 per month; we offer free membership to those who cannot afford it).

Classes and activities include yoga, exercise, dance, languages, art, crafts, computer, bridge, and cooking. Recent excursions included bus trips to the Getty Museum, Japanese Gardens, and the Laguna Arts Festival. Great art is constantly displayed. Art and premier music events are held monthly at the Riford in addition to a distinguished speaker series, weekly movies, wine/food and health events.

Dedicated stakeholders and donors have provided upgrades to the kitchen, great room, restrooms and courtyard, investing their time, money and energy. These areas are modernized and meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

Our aim is to be a fully ADA compliant, attractive and a highly utilized community center providing education, cultural opportunities, networking and friendship for adults in La Jolla. With the “senior” population rapidly expanding, The Riford will expand its role in and its importance to our community.