An artist's rendering of preliminary design plans for a new lifeguard tower in North Pacific Beach off Law Street.
Residents got their first glimpse at preliminary design plans for a new lifeguard tower in North Pacific Beach off Law Street at a July 16 Pacific Beach Planning Group (PBPG) subcommittee meeting.
But some residents nearby continue to insist plans for the new tower are more than the community expected – or needs.
Scott Chipman, chair of the North Pacific Beach lifeguard tower subcommittee, told neighbors there have now been four meetings since 2012 to publicly vet the project.
“We determined two potential sites, and the subcommittee voted to approve the coastal canyon location (off Law Street),” Chipman said, adding the group “provided some design suggestions” and received community input with “almost none in favor of the project.”
Chipman noted that lifeguards “established the facility’s shape, size and type.”
Alternative locations on the sand at the beach and further north than the proposed site were considered but rejected.
The subcommittee chair said the purpose of the July 16 meeting was not to debate the need for a lifeguard tower or its location.
“If you are in opposition … you should be going to Councilwoman Lorie Zapf’s office or the City Council’s Public Safety or Natural Resources committees,” Chipman said.
Jihad Sleiman, an engineer with the city’s Public Works Department, led a team of city officials who gave a brief slideshow presentation on the new proposed lifeguard tower.
“Once we received a favorable vote for this location, we took all your input and ideas seriously,” said Sleiman.
Subcommittee guests were told by city officials that the building had to be large enough to serve lifeguard’s needs, that a storm drain on the site diverting rain runoff from Law Street had to be relocated, and that there had to be beach access provided from Law Street where the new bathrooms are located.
Project architects noted the new lifeguard building has a second floor and an observation tower. They said the building is to be “tucked into the canyon as much as possible” while attempting to “blend the building’s structure in with the rocks and bluffs.”
Project architects added everything possible has been done to minimize view impacts from the new building noting the goal is to “make it (building) disappear.”
Subcommittee planner Chris Olson suggested more needs to be done, aesthetically and practically, to enhance the entryway from Law Street down to the beach and the new tower. He pointed out this spot is at the end of the boardwalk and is heavily used by people in their cars, riding bikes or walking to the beach.
“That entrance is not very inviting,” Olson said. “We could maybe put in some benches, lighting or interpretive signage.”
PBPG chair and subcommittee member Brian Curry concurred.
“I like the idea of making the entrance as visible as possible,” Curry said.
From the audience, one longtime neighbor commented, “I don’t think it’s necessary to make this giant place to park vehicles.”
It was suggested that story poles be put up on the new station site so that people can actually see how much the view will be affected.
Other neighbors expressed their fear that the new tower would bring traffic congestion and more problems with parking. One woman said she felt that anticipated sea level rise from global warming hadn’t been accounted for in planning for the new beach structure.
Chipman noted the California Coastal Commission and, ultimately, the San Diego City Council, will both have to sign-off on the location – and design – of the new North Pacific Beach lifeguard tower.