Lifeguard HQ OK’d by Coastal Commission

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The city’s long-awaited plan to build a $5-million lifeguard headquarters at Main Beach finally got a preliminary go-ahead from the California Coastal Commission after putting the entire bottom floor underground and reducing its above-ground footprint.

The City Council Tuesday unanimously approved re-crafted wording for a new subterranean blueprint, added as an agenda item at the last minute.

If the wording receives the expected final approval by the Coastal Commission, the 6,000-square-foot building will receive an exception to commission policy, permitting the building of a structure at Main Beach deemed “necessary to provide public benefit.”

The above-ground “footprint” includes a 2,200-square-foot lifeguard station and an 800-square-foot public restroom. The 3,000-square foot basement will house equipment, lockers, storage and a meeting/report room moved from the original first-floor plan.

The coastal commission staff tentatively okayed the special exception wording because the latest plan combines two existing buildings into one, puts half the square footage underground and restores coastal views and access by removing the current public restrooms north of the headquarters, Asst. City Manager John Pietig said. A sewer pump station, now located under the existing lifeguard headquarters, will be modernized and relocated adjacent to the new headquarters.

“I want to congratulate John and staff for pulling this off,” said Councilwoman Jane Egly.

Last March, the Coastal Commission extended the allowable size of a public building on a beach to 2,000 square feet, but lifeguards’ needs exceeded that, the city argued. The solution was relocating the sewer pump station, giving lifeguards more subterranean floor space.

New estimates and a slower economy have trimmed project construction costs to $5 million rather than the $7 million initially estimated, said City Manager Ken Frank. Environmentally friendly accoutrements, such as bamboo cabinets, solar water-heating and electricity, waterless urinals, low-water landscaping and partially recycled concrete, will cost $250,000.

Pump station construction is expected to begin next September, with the new headquarters to follow after summer-long construction break in September 2012. Completion is expected by June 2013.

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