SOLANA BEACH — Architects for the new Marine Safety Center at Fletcher Cove Park presented a smaller and less bulky design to city leaders this week in response to concerns about potential view blockage.
Solana Beach leaders have been working with San Diego-based Domusstudio Architecture since 2018 to finalize a design for a new center, which serves as the city’s lifeguard headquarters and equipment storage area. The current building is around 80 years old, severely deteriorating and too small to meet lifeguards’ current needs.
The new design presented at the council’s Nov. 8 meeting was created following feedback from the council back in February and features a main building tucked further into the bluff slope and a separate lifeguard tower rather than having the two connected as one larger building. It also eliminated the butterfly-style roof that residents and council members said would block views of the ocean.
“We’re trying to quiet it, make it kind of disappear into the bluff, and make the tower almost appear like a separate building,” said John Dominy, principal at domusstudio.
Council members said the new design is a massive improvement but emphasized that they want to shrink it wherever possible, asking about the possibility of moving the main structure and the lifeguard tower further south and east wherever possible to open up views.
“I think we’re close, but we’ve got some work to do still,” said Mayor Lesa Heebner.
Dominy said the new design has moved buildings as far south as possible without inhibiting lifeguards’ views of the reef to the south, where there is the most beach activity and need for observation. Moving the building further east would also take up the current public parking for Fletcher Cove.
Dominy, as well as Marine Safety Captain Jason Shook, emphasized that the structure also needs to meet lifeguards’ needs for a larger space.
“All of it’s a compromise, I think, in the end,” Dominy said. “We’re down to minimums. I’m sure we can push and squeeze another few inches here and there, but we’re really at minimum ceiling heights on both floors right now.”
Shook said lifeguard personnel are in great need of more space, especially as more and more people visit the beach over the years, regardless of the season. Some equipment, he said, is currently stored in the rafters in order to save space and can be very difficult to access.
“We’re pushing maximum occupancy for our equipment and people at the moment,” Shook said.
Community members living near Fletcher Cove Park, including residents of Las Brisas Condominiums directly south of the safety center, said they appreciated the changes made to the design.
“My view is not as bad as it was going to be,” said Las Brisas resident Mary Odgers, referencing the simulated views from the condominiums featuring the old and new designs. “I do appreciate your efforts in exploring it and modifying it. It was nice to feel heard about what’s going on.”
Ron Kassan, whose home on Pacific Avenue is across the street from Fletcher Cove Park, emphasized that even with the reduced size, the new Marine Safety Center will still be enormous.
“It is going to be a big building, and it is going to shock the neighborhood,” he said. “I want to make sure the council understands what an almost 5,000-square-foot structure is going to look like at Fletcher Cove. It is a monstrosity of a structure.”
Kassan said the ocean view of Fletcher Cove is a very precious resource that needs to be protected.
Councilmember Dave Zito noted the ongoing challenge of balancing views with the needs of marine safety officials.
“This is a very challenging problem, Zito said. “This is the gem of Solana Beach. We’re doing our best to protect it, but we also do have a regional responsibility to provide a safe beach facility for that, so we need to make sure we have an adequate marine safety center set up there and respect our awesome marine safety employees.”
City Manager Greg Wade — who is now delaying his start date as the new Clean Energy Alliance CEO to late January — said the city will continue making small changes to the design and then bring it back to the council for further approval.
The next steps after approval will include a geotechnical analysis to ensure the stability of the bluff, which Wade said experiences far less erosion than areas to the south. The project will also need to be submitted to the California Coastal Commission for approval before construction can begin.