"The bond measure was just approved by the city council," said Jihad Sleiman, project manager for the City of San Diego's City Engineering and Capital Projects, assigned to the lifeguard towers. "That's ready to go."
The newly approved measure meted money to the lifeguard stations, which allowed the building process to resume at La Jolla Shores "“ the first of three La Jolla lifeguard stations slated to be rebuilt. Recently the city condemned the Children's Pool tower after structural damage due to wear and tear made it unsafe.
"Right now, that tower [at the Children's Pool] has only a conceptual design, and we must design the project," Sleiman said. "We have to take the seals into account. We cannot disturb the seals in any way."
Lifeguards said they want a new tower at the Children's Pool, so Lt. John Greenhalgh said he's happy the projects are finally funded.
"We've been working on that for so long it's just nice to hear the funds are available," Greenhalgh said. "They're going to figure out how to start construction and not to violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and to avoid the seals."
The MMPA "“ a federal act "“ makes harassing seals or any marine mammals a violation, so the city must determine how to proceed at the Children's Pool, where a colony of seals has been using the beach to haul out and to give birth to their pups. In the meantime, lifeguards work out of temporary trailers.
"Were planning on building temporary lifeguard towers to get better views, and we're just trying to make it the best we can," Greenhalgh said. "It's a little harsh on the lifeguards but we're making do."
Lifeguards sitting inside their trailers at the Children's Pool lifeguard station said they hope the city will approve emergency mitigation measures, which include studying the seal colony, to allow an expedited design and building process.
"We just started with the environmental requirements, and we should know very soon what the mitigation measures are," Sleiman said. "I understand it's an emergency and it's somewhat frustrating but we need to comply. The challenging part on the Children's Pool is the summer moratorium because we can't do anything during pupping season."
The lifeguards' main station at the Children's Pool must undergo more testing before officials can continue the design and building process, Sleiman said.
Sleiman submitted applications for the same permits at the Children's Pool tower, and said he is waiting for officials to determine whether an environmental impact report is necessary.
"We're gonna give it our best shot and work around all these elements, but we want to make sure we comply," he said. "This is a fast-track project."
According to Sleiman, now that funding is in place, the city began focusing on the La Jolla Shores tower, which was approved by the La Jolla Community Planning Association months ago with two conditions: to include an archaeologist onsite and to consider changing the exterior design to conform to the rest of Kellogg Park, where the tower is located. The city will provide archaeological monitoring for sure, he said. There were a number of conditions, however, that need to be met before he would commit to changing the design's exterior, he said.
"I met with my architect and they're going to look into it and see if the design can be changed or not," he said.
During the LJCPA meeting months ago, the planners approved the design extension under the assumption that Sleiman would employ the two conditions.
"We're going to give it a try, but I don't know if it can happen or not," Sleiman said. "We're going to determine if it is doable or not."
La Jolla lifeguards attended many planning meetings and met with the public. Citizens at the planning meetings said they understood the lifeguards' needs but wanted the design to conform.
"We are at the moment requesting an extension for the [La Jolla Shores project] site and coastal development permit," Sleiman said.
The Shores tower project was originally heard and approved in February of 2005 by the city, then "appealed to the planning commission." The Shores tower project went to the planning commission in May 2005, but the board denied the appeal and approved the project. The tower sat unfunded and its permit expired, forcing lifeguards and Sleiman to return to the planning group and face a disapproving community. The planning commission approved an extension but asked Sleiman to redesign the tower's exterior to conform to the rest of Kellogg Park's new additions.
"We got all the community's approval "¦ We should hear from [the city] any moment," Sleiman said. "We submitted the building permit and we're going to advertise, then solicit contractors, and then we'll select the successful bidder, then we'll award the project, then start the construction phase," Sleiman said.
According to Sleiman, crews may begin construction on the La Jolla Shores tower this summer.
"Our construction window is limited because we cannot start before Labor Day and we have to stop by Memorial Day," Sleiman said. "If we're ready to start this year in October, we will; otherwise, we'll start the following year in September."