The large, long-dry fountain outside Fountain Valley City Hall may bubble and babble again soon, though it probably won’t be as full as it was in its pre-drought days.
Landscape architects helping the city brainstorm a future for the fountain — a 17,000-gallon, three-part centerpiece of the city complex along Slater Avenue — presented four preliminary possibilities to the City Council on Tuesday night.
One would restore the fountain to its full watery glory, and three suggested it flow only in the section that contains the “City of Fountain Valley” sign.
The city turned off the fountain in May 2015 in the midst of the state’s years-long drought, which officially ended this spring. The tiles are battered or missing in large swaths, and fallen leaves bunch in the nooks, although groundskeepers maintain the grass and shrubbery along the flagstone.
Ryohei Ota of Irvine-based landscape architecture firm Tatsumi and Partners presented four concepts for reviving the fountain:
Estimated cost: $263,000
This would return water to all levels of the fountain, including the centerpiece bowl feature with shooting jets, plus enhance the ambiance and landscaping with moderate- and low-water-using plants. Ota suggested moving some benches and adding shade trees to encourage people to sit in the area but removing the “water guzzler” grass and replacing it with crushed granite.
Estimated cost: $230,000
This would be a more abstract garden with plant life in the fountain tiers closer to City Hall’s doors.
The large bowl would feature a sago palm and fountain grass to mimic a bursting spray, over a bed of aloe and blue chalksticks — succulents with green-blue, finger-like leaves — and trailing rosemary sprawling over the lip and agapanthus flowers in a gradient of darker to lighter blues as they approach the street. Rings of landscaping on the ground would mimic the arrangement in the bowl.
“What we’re trying to do is utilize plants to sort of mimic the … water features,” Ota said.
Estimated cost: $175,000
It would be similar to “Modern Reflection” but with a “dry riverbed” of boulders and pea-size gravel in the rectangular middle run.
Estimated cost: $231,000
Ota called this an interactive design with a vine-covered trellis over a picnic table and demonstration gardens in and around the middle of the fountain to capture California landscapes. Plants also would be nestled in the top bowl.
City Public Works Director Mark Lewis wasn’t sure of a timeline for the fountain rehabilitation but said that if the council approves a design contract in September and then a construction contract, the overhaul could be underway next spring.
He said running the fountain completely would require refilling it with 17,000 gallons of water and would incur a monthly loss of 20,000 gallons to evaporation. Monthly electricity, water and cleaning costs would run about $1,500.
The partial-flow concepts would need 6,000 gallons to start, with 6,000 gallons lost every month to evaporation, he said. The monthly costs would total about $1,000.
Going with one of the latter concepts would save the city about 168,000 gallons a year and about $6,100 in maintenance costs, Lewis said.
The city budget allocates $120,000 to repair the fountain. Anything beyond that, such as landscaping, would need additional council approval, Lewis said.
City Finance Director David Cain said money to round out the project could come from undesignated reserves.
Mayor John Collins said he likes the aesthetic of a fully operational fountain but is conservative with the fiscal aspect.
“That kind of bothers me, I gotta be honest with you, to take that money, because … the next year or two anyway we’re gonna have some financial challenges,” he said. “I know [Measure] HH [new sales tax revenue] will start to come in and we’ll start to use that for police and fire and stuff, but basically, I still think we’re gonna have some financial challenges that I’d like that reserve in reserve.”
Councilman Mark McCurdy said the city is still telling residents to conserve water, even though the declared drought emergency is past, and that even the leaner fountain would lose water.
“The minimum 6,000 gallons lost a month still seems like quite a bit,” he said.
Councilman Steve Nagel also preferred cutting water use and not bringing the fountain back as it was.
“I would rather see a small version of that,” he said. “I think we should be a leader for the community, that we need to be real cognizant of the water we use.”
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in 2014 and ended it in April, although permanent anti-waste standards remain in place. In July, the Fountain Valley council dropped the city from a “Level 1 water supply watch alert” to the standard permanent water conservation level, which includes measures such as restricted watering times and durations and a ban on hosing paved surfaces.