SOLANA BEACH — City leaders reviewed yet another design for the new Marine Safety Center at Fletcher Cove Park last week, with officials stating that ocean views have been preserved as much as possible while also providing the necessary space and view corridor for lifeguards.
San Diego-based Domusstudio Architecture’s most recent presentation to the Solana Beach City Council marked the firm’s third iteration of the project in the past year. The studio has tweaked and slimmed down the design repeatedly in response to residents’ concerns about obstructing views, with the last review taking place in November.
On Jan. 24, domusstudio presented plans for a building with a smaller roof and moved further south to tuck into the bluff slope beneath Las Brisas Condominiums. The observation tower was also moved closer to the bluff.
While the city asked for the tower height not to exceed that of the current safety center, principal architect Jon Dominy said doing so would limit lifeguards’ views of the bluff toe and the beach from the north to the south. Raising the tower by another couple of feet above the current ridgeline expanded the sight line just enough to safely monitor the beach.
“We’re really at the minimal point, we felt, on what’s functional for them for observation,” Dominy said.
Drastically shrinking the butterfly-style roof also removed much of the planned shade for the tower, which is less optimal for lifeguards, Dominy said. Therefore, shading will have to be employed in other ways.
Marine safety personnel are in desperate need of a new facility to replace the current 1940s-era structure, which they say is inadequate for current operations and equipment.
Residents who spoke during public comment said they appreciated the changes that had been made. However, some said they were still unsatisfied with how it blocked views and claimed that the observation tower could be made shorter.
“I pay a lot of money, I’m a retiree, and I do not wish any obstruction to my view. You need to please come up with something that will be agreeable to everybody. We need to meet the needs of the community and also the homeowners,” said Las Brisas resident Maureen Finkelstein.
Another resident suggested that the lifeguards lower the tower and rely on cameras to monitor the beach, as well as “drone-delivered flotation devices.”
Council members said it is not possible to make everyone happy while also meeting the needs of lifeguards. Councilmember Dave Zito noted that the use of the city’s beaches has grown monumentally since the original center was built in the 1940s and will continue to grow, especially with the ongoing sand expansion project.
“One could say that going forward, our needs are probably going to increase rather than decrease, and we’re probably going to have to have more staff at some point if this continues to go on this path… We want to be able to meet the operational needs of the lifeguard for at least the next 50 years,” Zito said.
Up to 17 marine safety staff use the center during the weekends, with slightly fewer on weekdays, according to Marine Safety Captain Jason Shook.
Going forward, the council gave direction for the city to implement story poles reflecting the height of the new design before they officially sign off on it.
Council members also agreed to extend a professional services agreement with Domusstudio through the end of 2025 for an additional $500,000 to cover the creation of a final design package. Once approved by the council, the design will need to go before the California Coastal Commission.
Construction funding for the project has not been identified, city officials said.
Leaders concurred that since the project is coming from the city itself, the council does not need to approve it first by the city View Assessment Commission.
At the same meeting, the City Council also bid farewell to City Manager Greg Wade and thanked him for his nearly nine years of service. Wade is departing to lead the Clean Energy Alliance, a community choice energy joint powers authority of which Solana Beach was one of three founding cities.
Assistant City Manager Dan King was appointed as the interim city manager.