Stakes raised for lifeguard HQ

The City Council will get a different perspective this week on what it approved in June for the new Lifeguard Headquarters, public restrooms and sewer lift station on Main Beach.

Stakes will outline the footprint of a conceptual plan that is 50% larger than structures the city's general plan allows on the beach.

The proposal required a revision to the city's Local Coastal Program, which was granted this month by the California Coastal Commission. Commissioners accepted the city's premise that the project was worthy of special consideration because it provides the significant public benefit of beach and bluff restoration.

"The stunning thing is that the commission unanimously approved the amendment to the local coastal plan that allows us to build a project that exceeds the city's general plan limit of the 2,000 square-foot footprint," said Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, who attended the commission meeting to support the city's application. "When you go to the Coastal Commission with a project that needs special consideration, a unanimous vote is significant."

City Manager John Pietig, assistant city manager when the council approved the revised concept last year, crafted the narrow and artfully worded amendment to the city's local coastal plan that the commission approved, allowing the project to go forward.

The revision was not staked — with poles outlining the building's size and shape — prior to going to commission because without commission approval of the amendment the city was just spinning its wheels.

"Staking will give the council and the public a chance to see what we are talking about," Rollinger said.

The conceptual plan that swayed the commission calls for a two-level lifeguard headquarters, with one level below ground, and adjoining public restrooms for a total 3,000 square-foot foorprint,1,000 feet over the general plan limit.

The kicker was the amendment to the city's general plan that called for an exemption to the footprint limit if there is a public benefit.

Restoring the sand and bluff to natural condition, not to mention the replacement of the nearby aged and smelly lift station, turned the trick.

Pietig was point-man on the project since its inception about six years ago and had seen it through numerous iterations, most of which had considerable opposition from the public, the business community and city officials.

"I was not happy in the beginning with the height and interface with the boardwalk," Rollinger said. "But in the two years that I have been on the council, the project has been modified and improved to the point that virtually no one objects to it."

Pietig said Rollinger helped city staff make the case for the city's proposal.

"I do have a good relationship with the commissioners that I know, and John thought it would be a good thing if I went," Rollinger said. "If I was helpful, I am happy, but I think it would have passed on its own merits. The staff worked really hard on this."

The project was also supported by a large contingent of former and present lifeguards, Rollinger said.

When the commission asked if anyone else wanted to speak, Pietig resorted to the city's custom of asking supporters to stand.

"I think the commission was grateful they didn't all speak," Rollinger said.

The conceptual project, as revised in June, will be before the council at the March 1 meeting.

"Now that we have coastal commission approval of the [Local Coastal Program] language, we are going to re-stake the project and go back to the council just to acknowledge the current design and get that formalized," Project Director Wade Brown said.

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