SOLANA BEACH — Despite some minor concerns about the overall project cost and safety at the skateboard plaza, City Council unanimously agreed to move forward with plans to improve La Colonia Park and Community Center.
Following a preliminary design update at the Sept. 8 meeting, council members authorized staff to send plans for the $5.5 million project to the California Coastal Commission for approval.
Discussions to upgrade the site began in mid-2006. An advisory committee made up of council liaisons, staff members and residents presented recommendations to City Council about one year later. The city hired Van Dyke Landscape Architects to develop several conceptual designs, one of which was selected in December 2008.
Those plans were later modified and council approved final design documents in October 2009. Since then the estimated cost has increased about 25 percent, from $4,384,951 to $5,527,000. Current plans are to complete construction in two phases.
Phase one, which is estimated to cost about $2.8 million, will include a skateboard plaza, an amphitheater, picnic areas, street improvements and a new grass playing field, playground and basketball court.
Phase two, estimated at $2.7 million, features a redesigned community center with some minor additions, a gazebo plaza and additional plaza areas. The Stevens House Museum will be relocated and the parking lot will be redone into a one-way configuration.
A more formal seating area will be available for the Memorial and Veterans Day events and a there will be a “strong use” of tile and iron work to reflect the Mexican heritage of the area, Beth Bowen, Van Dyke vice president, said.
Overall, council members were pleased with the preliminary plans.
“I really like the look and feel,” Councilman Dave Roberts said, adding that the tile and iron work “enhance the look and feel we are trying to create for the area.”
“To me it looks like Solana Beach and the Eden Gardens community,” he said.
Councilwoman Lesa Heebner agreed. “It looks better every time I see it,” she said. “I’m very pleased with what I see.”
Councilman Mike Nichols credited the success of the project to Van Dyke’s willingness to consider public input.
“They’ve done a fabulous job listening to the community,” Nichols said.
Councilman Joe Kellejian said he also supports the project, but with some concerns.
“It’s been really a trouble-free situation,” Kellejian said. “But I do (still have) concerns about the skateboard park being unsupervised … for safety and liability sake.
“I understand it’s for a younger crowd but I have other concerns about older kids coming in, bullying and those kinds of things,” he said. “It’s going through and we will have a skateboard park but I have these concerns.”
The plaza, designed by a Solana Beach company that specializes in skate parks, was created with smaller structures to attract a younger crowd and was given a thumbs up from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
Nichols said older skateboarders may initially come over to check it out but they would likely “get bored and move on.”
“We know that it is a concern that it’s unsupervised and we have done our best to provide Z gates, to provide enclosure and also to provide fencing,” Bowen said.
She said there will be areas where the city can post information about liability and safety. The city attorney said there will be signage indicating that people using the plaza know they are doing so at their own risk.
In addition to sharing Kellejian’s concerns about the skateboard plaza, Mayor Tom Campbell said he has some issues with funding.
“It’s beautiful. I love it,” he said. “But we need to be realistic here.” Campbell said when the city was redeveloping Fletcher Cove Park the plans were created and then “sat on the shelf for eight or nine years” because there was no funding.
City Manager David Ott, who has applied for state funding, said the project could be broken down into smaller phases so specific areas, such as the skateboard plaza or playground area, could be developed one at a time as funding becomes available.
Campbell said a dedicated source for ongoing maintenance will also have to be identified in the future.
“We like it so far,” he said. “I just hope we can build it.”
The plans will continue to be presented to council members for additional input once Coastal Commission approval is granted.