SOLANA BEACH — The preliminary drawings for Solana Beach’s new Marine Safety Center will be modified after neighbors shared concerns about the new sprawling design blocking valuable ocean views.
Plans for rebuilding the lifeguard headquarters, which is nearing 80 years old, have been in the works for years, with city leaders determining in 2017 that the majority of the structure needed significant repairs. The City Council began working with San Diego-based domusstudio architecture on plans for the new building in 2018, with a design chosen the following year.
However, following a discussion of potential view impacts at their Feb. 8 meeting and input from concerned neighbors, the City Council directed city leaders to bring the plan back to the architects to be revised.
“I do feel it’s extremely important for us to consider view blockages,” said Mayor Leesa Heebner. “I think it’s paramount that we do that —it’s certainly not frivolous — and that we make sure that the needs are met but that we’re conservative in terms of our space utilization so that we don’t block views to the greatest extent possible.”
The proposed two-story design would more than double the center’s size from its current 1,480 square feet to approximately 4,000 square feet and add an inverted butterfly-style roof to divert water runoff from the receding bluffs and provide shade to residents enjoying a day at Fletcher Cove.
According to plans, the center would be used to house lifeguarding equipment and vehicles on the first floor as well as office space, open space and a new lookout tower on the second floor.
In April last year, the city installed story poles — vertical poles demonstrating the height of the planned structure — to discern any potential view blockage effects for neighboring residences and the community.
Nine residences, nearly all located in the Las Brisas Condominium complex, have been in contact with the city with concerns that their ocean views would be affected. Many complaints focused mainly on the sprawling butterfly-style roof design for the complex, which spans wider than the base of the structure.
“Our view of the water would be totally wiped out, depending on the tide,” said resident Astrid Vaccaro.
Other residents said the redesign would also impact the wider public, which enjoys views from Fletcher Cove.
“This is not about an individual; it’s really about the public,” said Ron Blumberg, who said he represented one of the residents whose views would be blocked. “We’re just here to hope that this can be rethought and not a single inch of sky or ocean that we currently see will be obstructed.”
At the City Council meeting, the city displayed photos of residents’ current views and compared them to altered versions of the same view with the outline of the new center. Residents and council members requested that the design be downsized by cutting unnecessary additions that widen its footprint.
Councilmember Dave Zito said while the roof design makes the building look nice, it doesn’t have much utilization. However, he also reminded the public that the redesigned center would require a lot of space to meet the need for an improved facility.
“The square footage that we’re getting to can be tweaked a little bit here and there, but if we look at what we will need for the next 50 years … I believe much of this space is gonna be needed,” Zito said. “The only other option is, you know, to block some views or possibly encroach into [some] of the existing parking lot as well.”
Heebner advised City Manager Greg Wade to follow up with domusstudio and develop a handful of alternative floor plans to be presented to the council but not to worry about the roof just yet.
Wade reminded residents and council members that this Marine Safety Center plan is still preliminary. The final design plan and discretionary permits must still be obtained before the project can go out for construction bids, and full funding for the project remains to be identified, according to a staff report.
The Feb. 8 meeting was conducted virtually due to the detection of a handful of COVID-19 cases among city staff. As a result, meetings are expected to remain remote for at least through the end of February.
More information about the Marine Safety Center project can be found at cityofsolanabeach.org.