SOLANA BEACH — City Council directed staff at the Dec. 9 meeting to move forward with the proposal favored by residents and law enforcement for improving La Colonia Park and Community Center.
Community outreach for resident participation began in March at city events such as the spring egg hunt and Paws in the Park. After garnering public input at three workshops, architects created three plan options, which were available for review and comment beginning Oct. 13.
All the proposals added small courtyards, public picnic areas, a community gazebo and an outdoor classroom for The Heritage Museum. They also included improving the tot lot, walkways, multipurpose room, restrooms and veterans’ monument area at the 25-year-old park.
Council members unanimously preferred the option that offered the most bells and whistles, however, they didn’t necessarily agree on all the amenities.
Joe Kellejian said he especially liked the idea of tripling the meeting space area in the community center by adding more than 1,000 square feet to the existing building. But he and Tom Campbell had concerns about the skateboard area.
At approximately 5,000 square feet, Campbell thought it would be too small to attract skaters. Kellejian said he was concerned about older skateboarders bullying the younger ones to control the area.
“I have strong reservations about the skate park … because of problems that I foresee down the line,” Kellejian said. “But I’m here to represent the community and the community wants so … I’ll go ahead and support it with reservations.”
Two of the three proposals included a skate plaza, which features small ramps and ledges not designed for large tricks. Beth Bowen of Van Dyke Landscape Architects said a fairly large contingency of skaters between 8 and 14 years old attended most of the workshops. They provided input on the types of tricks they wanted to be able to perform. The design team included an experienced skate park designer.
“It is a skate park designer’s opinion that it is an appropriate size,” Bowen said, adding that, as designed, the area would allow skaters to mimic what they are currently doing on the site. She also said a larger area would attract older skaters from outside the community.
“The skate plaza was the highest requested item,” said Councilwoman Lesa Heebner, who, along with Mike Nichols, made up the ad hoc committee. “The community is really very, very interested in having this.”
Adding the skate plaza will reduce the soccer field by about 10 percent, but Bowen said most workshop attendees were not concerned. She said they were more interested in seeing field improvements.
The community center will feature a passive plaza outside the entrance, something that was requested by many residents. This will provide more space to accommodate additional seating for events such as the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.
City Manager David Ott said the Sheriff’s Department favored the option selected by council because it would provide officers with a clear view of entire park and parking lot.
The final design, which will be presented within a few months, will incorporate suggestions made at the Dec. 9 meeting. Those changes included a request by the Solana Beach Civil & Historical Society to not relocate The Heritage Museum and remove the outdoor classroom area.
“To our knowledge, the society has never requested an outdoor classroom and we do not envision using it,” Jim Nelson read from a statement from the society.
Although most requests made by residents were included in the plans, not all made the cut. At one point architects incorporated an off-leash dog area but insufficient space deemed it impractical.
The next hurdle will be funding the project, which has a current cost estimate of approximately $4.4 million.
“The best is always the most expensive,” Campbell said. Council members asked that the final design be presented with an option to complete the project in phases.
“Unless you’ve got the money lined up right up front, you better be able to figure out a phasing program or your community is going to be very, very disappointed,” Campbell said.
“If we’re going to support this and move it forward we better have a pretty darn solid plan of how we’re going to finance it or it’s going to get a lot of dust sitting on the shelf.”