City looking to move forward on Torrey Hills Neighborhood Park rec center in Carmel Valley

A new recreation center may be in the works for Torrey Hills Neighborhood Park.

Howard Greenstein, park designer from the city of San Diego’s planning department, came before the Torrey Hills Community Planning Board at the Nov. 13 meeting to discuss plans for the center on the four-acre site at the park that has been left vacant for 16 years and serves as “a gopher warren.”

Back in 2002, plans were approved for the YMCA of Encinitas to build a recreation center at the park, complete with a swimming pool. In 2007, the Y canceled plans for the facility as it could not raise enough funds.

The city’s proposed recreation center is a “modest” 2,000-square-foot center that could provide office space, large and small multi-purpose rooms, restroom and storage. The anticipated cost is about $4.1 million, and the city hopes to have a final design in place by 2016.

Chair Kathryn Burton said the addition to the park could include a basketball court or tennis courts — design and amenities would be determined through a community input process.

The city is proposing to use several funds to help pay for the center, including $1 million from a past developer contribution for a Torrey Hills recreation center, $1.1 million from the Torrey Reserve Gateway Development Funds and $454,000 from a Torrey Hills Development Agreement fund.

Greenstein was seeking approval from the board to move the additional funds to the city’s capital improvement project budget to hire a consultant and begin the project design process.

“It is our understanding that the community wants to see improvements on these four acres,” he said. “This would be the kick-start to getting it designed and getting it built.”

The board was short on time and hesitant to let the city spend its money after the “really awful” process members went through on the landscape enhancement project on West Ocean Air Drive.

Board member Peter Gilchrist said that the board is very interested in getting something down on that piece of land, but is fearful that once funding is approved, the fund would drain and there won’t be shovels in the ground.

The board decided to table the issue until January until members could get a little more information.