ENCINITAS — Despite the controversy surrounding the city’s plans for a park at the Hall property, City Council unanimously agreed to create a demolition plan for the cleanup of the area at its Oct. 21 meeting.
The vote to spend up to approximately $1.5 million on the planning, design and demolition effort is the first step to implement the park’s master plan.
A Hall property team consisting of staff members from various city departments will work closely with San Juan Capistrano-based RJM Design Group according to Parks and Recreation Director Chris Hazeltine.
After various planning documents are in place, the city expects to request bids on a contract to clear the 44-acre site west of Interstate 5 and south of Santa Fe Drive.
Mayor Maggie Houlihan and Councilman Dan Dalager said they would like to preserve the old Hall house that sits on the property. While the historical significance of the structure is questionable, Houlihan said the building could later be rented out to generate income for the city.
Dalager said he hopes someone in the community with a love of local history, or a “sugar daddy,” will pay the restoration costs of approximately $264,000. Councilman Jerome Stocks said he could support saving the home, but only if it didn’t restrict the development plans and slow the overall park project down.
The city’s current park plan calls for a dog-play area, a skate park and five athletic fields to be included in the first phase. Playgrounds, a teen center and an aquatic center are proposed in later development stages.
While previous meetings on the Hall property have drawn hundreds to City Hall, only one speaker addressed the council. Donna Westbrook asked the city what it plans to do with the “contaminated soil” from the site. She referenced a city policy that does not allow for city workers to come into contact with contaminated soil. She said warnings about contaminated soil should be displayed for contracted, noncity workers and the public at the park. “I don’t think what you are doing by burying it (soil) is smart…,” she said.
The environmental impact report on the Hall property analyzed, among other things, the potential health hazards during the construction phase of the development. During the initial removal of debris in 2003, the city was sued by a local group called the Citizens for Quality of Life for failing to conduct an environmental review of the land that had been the site of a nursery for decades. The court ruled in the group’s favor, saying that the California Environmental Quality Act required the analysis.
The report found that workers and neighbors could be exposed to potentially harmful contaminants that are present in the soil during the grading activities. These include pesticides and petroleum hydrocarbons as well as asbestos and lead-based paint present in the wooden structures that must be excavated.
However, the report offers mitigation measures to control airborne particulates below a level of significance. The state’s Department of Environmental Health said in a letter to the city that it would review precautionary measures before they were implemented to ensure the safety of workers and those in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Hazeltine told the council that options for the removed soil would be included within the demolition plans. RJM representative Larry Ryan said that a soil expert would contribute to the planning documents.