Parks & Beaches OKs city’s revamped Children’s Pool LIfeguard Facility redesign


La Jolla Town Council’s Parks & Beaches Committee Sept. 24 voted 8-3-1 to approve the revised remodel of Children’s Pool LIfeguard Tower as proposed by the city of San Diego.

The motion for approval, stipulating dissenting opinions on the remodel need to be recognized, was made by committee member John Beaver following a presentation by La Jolla architect Phil Merten. Merten gave a counterproposal to the city’s plan, which calls for stacking the square footage on three levels rather than two, as the city has proposed. Merten claims his design will decrease the new lifeguard tower’s footprint while improving coastal views from its public plaza.

“The three-story option has some real advantages,” said Merten. “A third story significantly increases the guards’ observation of the coastline all around. Viewed directly across the street at Casa de Manana (retirement home), the city’s two-story option at the plaza level is almost 50 percent wider than the existing facility.”

City engineer Jihad Sleiman and architect James Robbins, who’s been retained by the city to redesign the lifeguard tower, presented a revised redesign proposal to the Parks & Beaches Committee. “The project calls for demolition of the existing lifeguard station, which was built back in the 1960s and is deteriorating,” said Sleiman.

Sleiman said the brand new lifeguard station will include an observation tower, sleeping quarters, men’s and women’s locker rooms, two offices for management, a ready room, restrooms on the lower level and a garage to hold two rescue vehicles, one boat, storage and first aid supplies.

“Based on your (public’s) comments, the program has changed drastically,” added Sleiman.

Lifeguard tower architect Robbins noted there are a number of limitations that have to be followed in redesigning the building. “You can’t have any facilities greater than 500 square feet,” he said. “You can’t have offices that aren’t accessible by the disabled, even if the offices are normally used by lifeguards. We’ve trimmed the program down as far as we can to satisfy our client’s needs. That’s what the lifeguards feel they need to satisfy their mission-critical function.”

“What folks are working in now is pretty tough,” commented Jeffrey A. Carle, assistant fire chief, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. “We’ve been looking at this project for more than seven years to get the lifeguards what they need. This (city’s design) is going to be much better than what we’re looking at now.”

Carle noted Lt. John Greenhalgh of the lifeguard service supports the city’s current plan for redesigning the Children’s Pool Lifeguard Tower.

Merten pointed out the lifeguards aren’t the city’s only client. “The other clients are the 1.5 million citizens of San Diego and the 2.5 million citizens of the county and people of the state of California who frequent this site,” he said, adding the building’s size is a primary concern. “Any building of any significant width could encroach on the existing public views. The city’s project design has a substantially larger footprint than the existing facility. The La Jolla Community Plan recognizes the value of public views of the ocean, requiring those views from public roads to be preserved or enhanced. Clearly, if the new building blocks the views, it doesn’t preserve them.”

The lifeguards’ needs are the primary consideration, noted Parks & Beaches committeemember Melinda Merryweather. “This is the lifeguards’ house,” she said. “What they need is the most important thing. I don’t think they want to be obstructing views any more than anybody else. Give them what they need. The only thing I’d like to see is some red tile on this roof or something that relates to the community.”

Mary Coakley said the city is making progress with its latest lifeguard tower redesign proposal. “We’re getting there,” she said. “But I think having eight restrooms on the lower level is overkill. I also don’t see any space there for storage for Park & Rec., that’s a serious lack. I do think Phil’s (Merten’s) proposal to have a second and third level has definite merit, as far as accommodating better viewability. Lifeguards should have everything they need in this facility. But we need to look a little closer at trying to get the lifeguards raised up.”

Beaver wishes there was some way the city’s and Merten’s two redesign proposals could be combined. “Listening to these two experts,” he said, “I wish somehow that a collaboration could take place that results in incorporating the wonderful features of the tower’s redesign, with the lesser footprint and greater visibility of Phil’s plan.”

Sleiman said the Children’s Pool Lifeguard Station redesign will next be presented for a vote at the La Jolla Community Planning Association’s Oct. 4 meeting. He added there’s still time for the public to weigh in on the project’s redesign. Comments can be sent to

Sleiman added the city’s Development Services Department is also doing an internal review on the project, which will then tell him what permits the project is going to need from various planning agencies, which could take some time. If all goes well, he said, the new lifeguard redesign could be completed by May 2010.