Solana Beach Sun

Solana Vista neighbors give feedback on new school design

In 2020, Solana Vista School is scheduled to be completely reconstructed.
(Karen Billing)

As the Solana Beach School District nears closer to finalizing the design of the new Solana Vista School, community meetings are being held to gather feedback. The hope is that the reconstructed Solana Vista School will blend into the neighborhood and remain as Principal Katie Zimmer affectionately calls it, “the little school on the hill”.

Another community design meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. in the Solana Vista kiva and the final design is expected to be approved at the board’s Feb. 13 meeting which will be held at Skyline School. Construction is set to begin in 2020 and during the one-year construction timeline the district plans to house students off-site at Skyline and Solana Highlands Elementary Schools.

Currently the 38-year-old school on Santa Victoria only has nine permanent classrooms—66 percent of the campus is portable classrooms, according to Caroline Brown, executive director of capital programs and technology. The new design calls for 24 total permanent classrooms composed of 16 standard classrooms and eight specialty classrooms.

The school will have a capacity of 350-400 kindergarten through third grade students.Right now there are 28 active classrooms and an enrollment of 344 students that is not expected to grow over 340 students between now and 2028, Brown said.

The reconstruction will allow for a right-sized multi-use room, a media center centralized within the campus, an academic court and garden adjacent to the STREAM lab, and lunch and food service areas adjacent to the multi-purpose room and play fields. The intent is to keep the school all under one roof with interior circulation but each classroom will have access to enclosed outdoor instructional spaces.

Due to concerns about the bulk and scale, the design stays within the existing footprint of the school, however, green space at the school will be reduced from 184,600 square feet to 165,460 square feet.

Brown assured the public that the sand hippo near the blacktop will be saved and there will be no loss to the playing fields utilized by Solana Beach soccer and little league baseball. One resident questioned that fact, however, Brown said she has been in communication with the local sports leagues throughout the process.

“There’s not a lot of parks in the area and field space is of high importance,” board member Vicki King said at the board’s Jan. 17 meeting. “I want to make sure we’re not wasting any space that can be fields or blacktop.”

Brown said they are working to maximize the space but it is a bit of a juggling act unless they go up a story.

On Jan. 17, the board decided to stay with a one-story concept rather than a two-story design. A two-story structure would preserve more green space but it would impact views. A two-story design would also take away some flexibility as per California Building Code, kindergarten through second grade students can’t occupy a second floor. The second story would also require additional restrooms and circulation space, adding $1.5 million to the cost.

As the additional 3,000 square feet does not add any educational value for that cost, board members could not justify the additional cost, “We want to stretch our JJ dollars as far as we can,” said SBSD President Julie Union of the Measure JJ general obligation bond funding that will pay for the project.

The new driveway entrance for Solana Vista will be a right-turn only in between Santa Bartola and Santa Cecelia—currently traffic enters further up on Santa Victoria. The new driveway configuration aims to get cars off Santa Victoria and stacking internally in the parking lot and exiting back on Santa Victoria. The parking lot will expand from current 54 spaces to 70 spaces.

At a Jan. 23 community design meeting, the board heard concerns from residents about site drainage issues, parking lot circulation and traffic.

Residents have concerns about the impacts of increasing traffic on Santa Cecelia, which they said is a very narrow street. One San Patricio Drive resident shared her concerns about a “terrifying” blind spot that occurs on her street as cars back up on Santa Victoria trying to get into Solana Vista. “That’s only going to get worse,” she said.

While Brown said increasing the stacking inside the parking lot may help with that issue, one resident said that hasn’t always helped as the new Skyline as cars are not going all the way through the lot, stopping sooner to drop children out which causes cars to continue to back up on Lomas Santa Fe Drive. Issues like that (at both schools) can be addressed by parent education and staff supervision, Zimmer said.

Once the site layout, including the proposed ingress/egress, is approved by the school board, the plans will be further developed by the architect and consulting team, according to Brown. As part of the school site design process, the plans will then go through the California Department of Education, the California Coastal Commission, and the City of Solana Beach for further approvals.

Some of the concerns heard at the meeting were regarding the aesthetics and proposed materials of the new school. One resident said the new Skyline looks “like a prison” — “We want it to be pretty,” another resident said.

Paul Gallegos, of AlphaStudio Design Group, said they will not be using masonry block like Skyline and the structure will not be anything “drastically different” that sticks out. He said the design calls for stucco with stone and wood accents and standing seam metal roofing—the roof will be a darker color, nothing shiny.

Gallegos said they plan to create the appearance of a little village, with varying roof heights and a gable at the main entry. The goal, Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said, is to have a beautiful and safe facility for students that the community can be proud of.

Information on the reconstruction project can be found at under the Measure JJ tab.