Solana Beach skatepark secures long-sought funding

Solana Beach City Hall
(Sebastian Montes)

Solana Beach has at last landed one of its most elusive tricks of the past decade: a funding plan for building the La Colonia Skatepark.

The city council last week approved a $940,000 bid—part of a nearly $1.1 million funding package—to build the 6,000-square-foot skateboarding facility in the northwest corner of La Colonia Park, voting unanimously to cover a $452,000 shortfall by using nearly all of a budget surplus set aside last year for future capital projects.

Officials have not specified a new timeline for the project, but the contract calls for a nine-month construction window and envisions the skatepark being in operation by Memorial Day weekend of next year.

Five bids were submitted, ranging from $939,975 up to $1.49 million. By rule, the council selected the lowest bid, from California Skateparks. Based in eastern Los Angeles County, the company has built more than 200 skateparks in the United States and more than 350 worldwide for clients, including Nike, Vans and Tony Hawk. Locally, its portfolio includes skateparks in Lemon Grove, Poway, Borrego Springs and Coronado.

Pub Construction, which submitted the middle bid of $1.2 million, filed a protest with the city claiming California Skateparks had an unfair advantage because its owner, Joe Caglia, also owns SITE Design Group, which led the Solana Beach design. The city rejected Pub’s protest, saying only that “City staff has not identified a basis on which to disqualify California Skateparks.”

The skatepark’s $1,098,000 budget package includes $12,000 for an environmental review, $22,000 in additional construction support, a $100,000 contingency fund for cost overruns, and $24,000 for an EnergiPlant—a self-sustaining “nanogrid” powered by wind and solar that provides WiFi, six USB charging stations and possibly a security camera.

Councilman Peter Zahn, appointed earlier in the evening to fill the vacancy created when former Mayor Ginger Marshall resigned earlier this month, found the bid “relatively reasonable” and was encouraged to see an emphasis on selling donor tiles and to continue other fundraising efforts.

“I think it makes a great deal of sense,” Zahn said.

Funding has dragged the project down since its advent as part of a 2008 master plan update for all of La Colonia Park. At the time, redevelopment fees for work along Highway 101 was going to pay for the project, but the state eliminated that program in 2011 and the skatepark drifted into a funding limbo.

Ever since, skateboarders and their parents have complained of having to go to skateparks in Carmel Valley and Encinitas—a fact felt as an affront to a community that has seen some of the sport’s biggest stars skate its streets and sidewalks.

Planning resumed in earnest when the city council appropriated $300,000 in November 2016, followed by another $150,000 last year.

Carlsbad-based SITE Design Group — which designed the Encinitas and Carmel Valley skateparks — presented two designs to the council in September. The council chose a hybrid of the two: a 6,000-square-foot plaza featuring a bowl, a quarter-pipe ramp and several stair sets with rails and ledges.

City officials then applied for a $270,000 grant from San Diego County, but the County Board of Supervisors awarded only $100,000.

Private donations have totaled nearly $50,000. Surfing Madonna donated $20,000 and a campaign through the Coastal Communities Foundation has raised $10,000. Another $10,000 has come from the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, and the Tony Hawk Foundation pitched in $5,000. Donor tiles—which will sell for $500 each—are targeted to raise $25,000 but the donor wall has room for enough tiles to raise another $50,000.

Meanwhile, costs ballooned drastically. Originally expected to cost around $400,000, the projected price tag swelled beyond $600,000 early last year and, as recently as December, the city had hoped to contain costs to as little as $820,000.

Cost increases include $164,000 for a sound wall along the park’s northern edge and $75,000 for a full-size basketball court.

The council had set aside a $500,000 budget surplus to be used to fill future capital project needs. With the skatepark’s lowest bid coming in at $939,975 and another $160,000 in expenses, the council agreed last week to use nearly all of that surplus to cover the skatepark’s funding gap.

“We weren’t anticipating this would be it, but this is the opportunity,” said Deputy Mayor Dave Zito.

The skatepark’s fundraising campaign will get back underway with a booth at Fiesta Del Sol on May 19 and 20.

Councilwoman Jewel Edson asked whether the city would be able to sell naming rights. City Manager Greg Wade said an offer had been made.

“We have had expressed interest, but not at the level that staff would consider worthy of naming the whole skatepark for, at least in our impression,” Wade said. “And given our past history with other situations in town, we just didn’t engage or entertain that. But if that’s something the council wanted to do in the future, it could be done at any point if the council directed so.”