Hall park plans get another update

ENCINITAS — Impacts to the Hall park design based on the Caltrans proposed widening of I-5 were explained to the City Council on Sept. 15.
Chris Hazeltine, director of Parks and Recreation, said that staff would seek a substantial conformance application because the proposed modifications are for a concept plan already approved by the Planning Commission and City Council.
The changes do not have a “significant impact” on the park design according to Hazeltine. In order to accommodate the proposed widening of I-5, the park is essentially being shifted further to the west.
The 44-acre site purchased by the city in 2001 has been controversial throughout the various stages of planning. The property is partially surrounded by residential neighborhoods with the eastern edge adjacent to the freeway and its northern border along Santa Fe Drive.
Stephanie Keller from the Engineering Department told the council that minimizing the impacts of the freeway expansion was possible. The park design changes related to the freeway project include adding two 6-foot-high retaining walls on the east side of a park access road; reducing some landscaping between that access road and the park property’s eastern edge; reducing the size of a maintenance yard; and reducing the size of the planned aquatic center by about 10 percent.
The northeastern portion of the park would be the most impacted. A landscaped berm, 25 feet wide and 8 feet high, would be built by Caltrans according to Keller.
An additional retaining wall proposed by staff will help shield a slope into the park area. “There is a lot of earth work that needs to be done,” Keller said.
While there is no loss of facilities planned in the mitigation, the “footprint” of the aquatic complex would shrink, Hazeltine said.
A new road layout shifts the road by 18 feet to the west, moving both the future aquatic facility and the parking lot, Keller said.
Hazeltine said that two changes not based on Caltrans widening plans will also be submitted. They include moving the skatepark further from the neighborhood where the parking lot was to be constructed and moving the restroom building 200 feet to the northeast.
“There will also be an increased buffer between the park and surrounding residences and an increase in storm water capacity,” Hazeltine said.
Substantial conformance approval is required by city code. It is reviewed by planning staff and the conclusion is posted and given to City Council and the Planning Commission and begins a 15-day appeal period.
The council was generally supportive of the changes. “This is a big project,” Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan said.
“I much prefer the skatepark as it is (in the new plan),” Councilwoman Teresa Barth said.
Hazeltine confirmed that the skatepark will remain at 13,000 square feet.
Sanford Shapiro, the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said his personal opinion was that he was disappointed that the surrounding area of the aquatic center was reduced. “It is significant whenever we lose property,” he said. He noted that Cardiff Glen residents and Rubenstein neighbors were active in working with staff to make the changes to the park.
Former Mayor Sheila Cameron admonished staff for not taking the lead on knowing when the Caltrans widening was coming. “I think staff should have known about this some time ago,” she said.
“It was just recently that we were able to nail down that boundary line (where Caltrans would widen the freeway),” Hazeltine said.
Gary Cohen, a Rubenstein resident, said staff has kept neighbors of the park in the loop on changes. He asked if the wall between the park and the neighborhood could be taller. It is planned to be six-feet high.
Scott Henry, who lives along the south end of the park property, echoed Cohen’s sentiments. “The way the grading is in some places, it’s not going to actually be six feet,” he said.
Karen Jacque, a resident who lives close to the park, said she was concerned about the possibility of increased pollution and taking of land by the Caltrans expansion of I-5. “This is only going to get worse for our athletes playing,” she said. “Kids and adults shouldn’t be exposed to this,” Jacque said. “I think we need to focus on the health of our citizens in Encinitas.”


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