Solana Beach skatepark short on funds but ready to open construction bids

After a year of shaping and fine-tuning its designs, Solana Beach will in two months open bids for building the long-awaited, long-delayed skate facility at La Colonia Park.

At the Solana Beach City Council’s Dec. 13 meeting, city engineer Mo Sammak offered the following timeline for the $821,000 project: Begin taking construction bids on March 22 and award the contract at the council’s April 11 meeting, allowing construction to begin June 1 followed by “substantial completion” by March 2019.

Even as the design phase rolls toward construction, the city faces a $166,000 shortfall after the County Board of Supervisors signed off on less than half of a $270,000 grant for which the city had applied.

Skaters and city officials have for nearly a decade eyed the northwest corner of La Colonia Park as home for a skatepark. As the project skidded into a funding stall, skaters were left with Carmel Valley and Encinitas as the nearest skateparks, much to the chagrin of a community that has seen some of the sport’s biggest names skate its streets and sidewalks.

After the project finally got going again a year ago, Site Design Group — a Carlsbad-based firm that designed the Encinitas and Carmel Valley skateparks — began shaping extensive community input into two designs presented to the council on Sept. 27. The council chose a hybrid of the two: a 6,000-square-foot plaza that will include skate features such as a bowl, a quarter-pipe ramp and various stair sets with rails and ledges.

At its Dec. 13 meeting, the council declared the project exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act and agreed to include a sound wall along La Colonia’s northern edge. In the 11 weeks since the council had previously discussed the skatepark, a noise study determined that the best options for sound mitigation will be to move the skatepark south by 10 feet or to build a sound wall 30 inches tall topped by a 12-inch rail. Not wanting to cut into La Colonia’s soccer field, the council chose the sound wall, which is expected to cost around $164,000 on top of $39,000 for walls throughout the plaza and a “donor tile wall” that will hold around 72 names.

The council on Dec. 13 also decided to upgrade the project’s basketball court from a half-court layout to a scaled-down full court. The full court will add around $14,000 to the project ($75,000 compared to $61,000 for half-court).

The full-court option — a recent addition to the project — is inspired by “The Cage” in New York City, a landmark of urban basketball.

“Knowing the basketball culture, to replace the existing half-court with the mini full-court, it would really enhance the park and the use and the whole dynamic of it,” said Steve Ostrow, a New York native and member of the city’s Public Arts Commission.

Much of the Dec. 13 discussion centered on the fence that will be built around the basketball court — specifically, how high the fence needs to be in order to keep basketballs from caroming into the skatepark. Whereas The Cage’s fence is 16 feet high, Solana Beach doesn’t need the fence to be even half as tall, Ostrow said.

In a separate bid, the city will explore the possibility of including an EnergiPlant, a free-standing “nanogrid” powered by wind and solar that would house a security camera, a WiFi hotspot, LED lighting and six USB charging ports. It will cost around $16,000.

“I think that’s a great idea and it’s kind of cute,” said Solana Beach Mayor Ginger Marshall.

The council was heading toward bidding the three elements — skate features, basketball court and EnergiPlant— as separate items. But Councilman Mike Nichols, a landscape architect and former pro skater, pushed the council to go with the full-court design, not wanting to over-complicate the bidding process.

Funding and escalating costs have dogged the project from its inception as part of a 2008 master plan update for the entire La Colonia Park. At the time, state funding from a pool drawn from redevelopment fees for work along Highway 101 was going to pay for the project. The state eliminated that program in 2011, leaving the skate park to lapse into unfunded limbo.

It got rolling again last year when the council allocated $300,000 followed by another $215,000 since. Surfing Madonna has contributed $20,000 and a private donation drive has drummed up $12,000. The Tony Hawk Foundation pitched in $5,000. Another $2,000 has come from the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, plus $1,000 from the Solana Beach Sunset 5K.

Looking to close the $270,000 gap, the city applied for the county’s $5 million Neighborhood Reinvestment Program, but learned last month that the county will provide $100,000.

That leaves the city $166,000 short of its $821,000 target, a price tag Sammak stressed is merely the city’s “best estimate” until bids arrive in March and April.

“I think at that time we will have a much better understanding about the actual costs and whether or not we can afford it,” he said.

The city hopes that using cheaper materials to build the walls will shave some of those costs.

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