Tennis court design plans move forward despite higher cost estimate

The Laguna Beach Unified School District board has unanimously voted for an architect to resume design plans for a tennis court renovation at Laguna Beach High School, even though cost estimates have almost doubled.

District staff called a special board meeting Tuesday to gather feedback from the trustees and public on whether to proceed with plans for post-tension slabs on five of the six courts on Park Avenue across from the high school.

Post-tension involves steel cables in a concrete slab being pulled to a certain degree to help prevent cracking and is more extensive than other options, including sandblasting and adding a synthetic surface.

The school district and city, which share the courts through a joint-use agreement, agreed last year on an estimated budget of $620,000. The city agreed to spend 70% of that cost while the district would pick up the remaining 30%.

But the project's architectural firm, LPA Inc., hired an independent estimator who projected a total cost of $1.15 million for mandatory work and $1.7 million for mandatory plus added, but not required, amenities specific to each agency, a district staff report said.

Under the mandatory work, post-tension costs increased from $286,400 to $750,814, while upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act went from $86,137 to $380,892, according to the district.

A ramp that is currently too steep would cost $238,241 to be replaced, according to project architect Arash Izadi.

Additional Department of State Architects-required costs include $99,425 for demolition and $9,201 to relocate gate posts to align with the new slabs, LPA's report said.

The mandatory work doesn't include fixing a retaining wall ($29,010), replacing mesh and windscreens on court fences ($92,649) and adding new arms and fixtures to the light poles ($104,803). These costs would add on to the $1.15 million.

The initial estimate did not have the cost to remove and replace the ramp, said Dean West, assistant superintendent of business services.

LPA has been on hold since Dec. 19, when architects revealed the revised estimate at a meeting with West, district facilities director Ted Doughty, Laguna Beach High School Principal Joanne Culverhouse and Athletic Director Mike Churchill, and city representatives including Community Services Director Ben Siegel and Recreation Supervisor Tom Toman.

The project is not expected to be done by the end of summer as originally hoped, according to the district's report.

Parents who spoke during the meeting still favored going forward with design plans for post-tension, saying the current courts are not safe.

"The courts' surfaces are so bad," parent Tijana Hamilton said. "Kids are falling; it's a huge safety issue."

Hamilton asked about performing the work in phases, but at least two board members, including President Jan Vickers and Clerk Ketta Brown, favored a single project.

"I want to stick with what we started," Vickers said. "Phasing in will still leave significantly unsafe courts."

Resident Howard Hills urged the board to go forward with the improvements saying it is what Laguna Beach property owners voted for in 2001 when they passed a bond measure to modernize district facilities.

"The tennis courts are very important to the community," Hills said. "Students [playing tennis] can be healthy and active. You guys are in a tough spot but the taxpayers are in a tough spot. The community voted for the bond."

Board member Theresa O'Hare also favored moving forward with design plans with the idea of eventually seeking bids for the project, and agreed with board member Betsy Jenkins' idea to talk with the city about the revised project.

"It seems like the entire time we've dealt with this process, we haven't had hard numbers," O'Hare said. "The way to get hard numbers is to go to bid.

"I would like to deal with the city and go back to them."

Board member William Landsiedel agreed.

"I don't feel uncomfortable dedicating our share if the city would front their share," Landsiedel said. "It's not an unreasonable request. We need to present it as a proposal and not assume they'll say no."

Siegel called the revised budget estimate "unfortunate" in a phone conversation Thursday.

"We're going to work with the school district and evaluate different options," he said.

Hamilton reminded everyone of the potential cost if a player is injured on the courts.

"We will be really hurt if someone falls and files a lawsuit," she said.

Parent Sheri Morgan encouraged the district to ask the community for support as a way to help pay for the cost.

"Our school needs facilities that represent the quality of education we provide," she said. "We need to find a way to do this. I'm sure if you reach out and look beyond what is in this room, it can be done."

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