Pacific Highlands Ranch Park committee in Carmel Valley backs cycle track idea despite city’s lack of support

The Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Park committee has been working to include alternative recreation such as parkour, a skate plaza and a bicycle pump track in its plans for the new park but at the committee’s Dec. 8 meeting, the committee heard the city’s recommendation to remove the pump track in favor of a larger off-leash dog park.

Kathy Ruiz, deputy director from the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department, said there were concerns about the city’s ability to maintain the track. The city’s only other pump track is in Kearny Mesa — it is composed of dirt and is leased out to a private company. Ruiz said the city doesn’t have the experience of maintaining a pump track and does not have the budget to support the expensive maintenance; the Kearny Mesa track frequently has to be rebuilt by the outside contractor.

“Because all of the challenges, we don’t feel like it’s the best use for that space and that’s why we don’t support it,” Ruiz said.

Committee member Chris Powell said it was “frustrating” that the city would make a policy decision based on a limited frame of reference. He said the proposed facility for PHR is much smaller than Kearny Mesa’s.

Powell said the Pacific Highlands Ranch track doesn’t have to be dirt—the rolling obstacles and jumps can be made of concrete or soil tack could be placed on the dirt to prevent issues that would necessitate having to rebuild.

“It’s frustrating to work toward an exciting alternative and have the city make a policy decision to completely get rid of our idea and replace it with a dog park,” said Powell, an attorney who was a professional mountain biker prior to practicing law.

Ruiz said she didn’t want the city to be characterized as rejecting everything the committee has done and said she is willing to explore the feasibility of the track with more information.

The committee said they are in support of maintaining the pump track while still reserving ample space for a dog park with separated areas for small and large dogs.

“I’m interested in the pump track because it provides more diversity of options for the neighborhood in the park,” committee chair Manjeet Ranu said.

The committee members agreed that it is important to provide a place for teens to ride, so they don’t have to trespass on school property, cause damage in skate parks or build jumps in Carmel Valley’s open space.

According to Glen Schmidt of Schmidt Design Group, city staff also recommended adding staff parking spaces and a second full-size basketball court outside.

The meeting was the second to last step in tweaking and refining the park and recreation center plan as the committee will approve the final plan in January. Funding for the park begins in July 2017 and construction is expected to take two years — a target completion date of July 2019.

Schmidt presented the tentative map for the park, which included a big green field space of 5 acres, 689 feet by 318-340 feet. As Schmidt noted, this is a very large and generous field — by comparison, the Ocean Air Community Park is 4.7 acres. There will also be an adjacent flexible turf space that can be used for more passive recreation or as a warm-up space for athletic teams.

The park will also include a promenade that links with the Village center across the street with interesting activity “rooms” such as a parkour area, a playground for ages 5 to 12, a playground for ages 2 to 5 and a play garden with discovery pathways for children.

There will be four shade structures around the park with picnic tables underneath and a three-quarter loop trail around the park with exercise stations as well as less formal meandering trails along the edges.

Near the entrance to the recreation center building, the committee has reserved space for a skate plaza.

Architect Jim Gabriel of Hanna Gabriel Architects presented the plans for the 17,000- square-foot recreation center — a “soft modern” structure with a broad roof, drawing in textures and materials from the surrounding area, such as white stucco, warm wood framing and a tile and weathered steel roof. The gym building and multi-purpose building will be linked by an enclosed patio.

Gabriel said his company is committed to sustainable architecture — utilizing solar orientation and prevailing breezes for daylighting and natural ventilation

“The building is a backdrop to the park,” Gabriel said. “I think it’s going to have a great feel and really be a supporting character, not the star…it’s there to make the park special.”

Ranu expressed some concern about the way the gym roof folds over the side of the building, noting it was a little “overwhelming.” Gabriel said that the main purpose of the roof is to allow for the use of natural daylight in the facility while still controlling the light and glare for athletes. He said they would be able to incorporate a more permeable material to make the visual impact less “harsh.”

Local resident Karen Dubey provided feedback to the committee that the architecture of the building “stands out like a sore thumb.”

“It matches nothing in the community,” she said.

Committee member Danielle McCallion said she heard Dubey’s concern.

“I feel the same way but I’m hoping when they add the details it will feel more like a community center,” McCallion said. “I think in order to keep the environmentally-efficient features it can’t help but have a modern look. The details will help.”

Farinksy noted that the recreation center will be situated between the modern blue and orange Pacific Trails Middle School and the “different and modern” Canyon Crest Academy, across the street from the Santa Barbara-style, white Village center.

“This is a transitional piece that picks up the modern looks of the schools and it picks up the Santa Barbara textures and forms of the rest of the neighborhood,” Farinsky said. “I think it will be good.”