Rec center plan unveiled

A landscape architecture firm rolled out a visionary - and ambitious - conceptual master plan for a multiphase remodel of La Jolla Recreation Center’s grounds, which is to be privately funded.

Three representatives from the San Diego firm of Spurlock Poirier, working pro bono, presented a new, more fleshed-out plan for center revitalization at La Jolla Parks & Recreation board’s February meeting last week.

“These are conceptual drawings, they’re preliminary, we’re not taking action on them, we’re not voting on them,” noted Chip Rome, parks board chairman.

Rocio de Gertler of Spurlock noted that her 20-year-old firm has done work on projects such as Petco’s Park at the Park. She walked park board members through a richly detailed conceptual master plan for revamping the rec center’s grounds.

The remodel as proposed would move existing basketball courts behind the center off to the side while adding a front-entry sculpture plaza and garden, a pergola, lots of shade trees, a palm court, sound play and picnic areas.

Spurlock’s Drew Brown said the conceptual master plan preserves, and respects, the architectural “roots” of the rec center building.

“We looked at its proximity to other recreational uses and its historical legacy as a public amenity that has been here almost 100 years,” he said. “We also looked at the meaning of its being an Irving Gill-designed building and the influence his architecture had on La Jolla.”

Brown added that the grounds are being reconfigured more to “engage the surrounding context” of the community than to change the way the site has been used. He cited proposed changes to the front entryway as an example.

“We wanted to activate the space a little more,” he said. “Rather than just having a large lawn that nobody can walk through, we’d have an art plaza.”

De Gertler noted that the square footage of the center’s play areas would remain largely unchanged, though different age groups that use them would be separated more.

She also proposed creation of a new palm court, in front of the relocated basketball courts, which would provide public seating and take advantage of ocean views.

Rec council members said they were mostly impressed by Spurlock’s proposal, though they had some reservations, such as whether they need to keep two full basketball courts.

They also said the scope of the work envisioned may be excessive.

“I like the front area with the little pavilion,” said Dianne Brittingham, rec center director. “My concern is with water usage, the number of trees and the maintenance. I do like the idea of the (basketball) courts being on the side.”

“We talked a lot about getting shade, and I like the pergola,” Patricia Miller noted.

“Maybe we could use trees that don’t need that much water,” Hobe Schroeder said. “We need to compromise with what’s practical.”

“I really like the look of it,” said Mary Coakley, “but that front area is used frequently by groups, and to take away the opportunity to have open space there, cutting it up, makes it unusable, just a very nice visual.”

Rome stressed that the rec center’s master plan process is in its infancy and that timelines with its progression is uncertain. “We have to go through the city process with public hearings, and I am in discussions with the city so that we go through the proper channels,” he said, noting that the first such meeting will likely be later this year.

Fundraising is also in the future. “We haven’t even talked to contractors about costs,” said Rome, “or to see whether they’re going to be generous with their time.”