Recommendations added to planned aquatic center

OCEANSIDE — The Planning Commission added recommendations before it gave a green light to the planned aquatic center zone amendment and EIR on Nov. 7.

Commissioners’ chief concern is El Corazon Park aquatic center sits too close to the park’s senior center.

Park plans envisioned the aquatic center toward the west end of the 465-acre park. Current plans relocate it directly next to the senior center, which sits on the east end.

The selected 2.2-acre site has needed infrastructure that allows quicker and easier addition of the aquatic center.

Commissioners asked that the city build the best aquatic center it can, and not settle on a location that compromises a spacious park feel.

“The pool is practically 20 feet from the senior center, this would not win an Orchid Award for great planning,” Commissioner Claudia Troisi said. “As a planner I’m really having trouble with this.”

Approved plans for the aquatic center include a competition length pool, instructional pool, kids splash pad and poolside bleachers.

There is also an 8,500-square-foot building to be shared between the aquatic center and senior center. A 5,000-square-foot aquatic center building has a separate entrance, lobby and locker rooms.

Commission Chair Louise Balma recommended the city ask SoCal Sports, the 30-year lease holder of the adjacent sports fields within the park, to give up 50 feet or so of land and allow the aquatic center to be moved over. The majority of commissioners agreed.

“We all like the concept, the frustration is a park is starting to look like a mall,” Commissioner John Scrivener said.

City staff said the land, which was previously a mine, presents numerous building challenges that make changes costly.

Nathan Mertz, city project manager, said there is bedrock 35 feet below ground level and an old pond.

Commissioners also questioned sufficient parking and future traffic impacts.

Mertz said the 258 shared parking spaces between the two facilities meet parking standards. The aquatic center build accounts for 67 of the spaces included in the total.

He added pool and senior center peak uses would occur at different times. This lessens parking impacts.

Additionally, parking during major events would be managed through coordinated scheduling and shuttle service to off-site parking.

Commissioners criticized the solution of managed parking, and said they saw it as settling for a lack of parking and not using the two facilities to their maximum potential.

“We have to be able to operate the senior center and aquatic center (and their events) at the same time,” Commissioner Colleen Balch said.

Diane Nygaard, president of Friends of El Corazon, echoed concerns. She said it is known that upon park completion traffic will have an F rating, and she wants to be assured mitigation measures are carried out.

“We need to do our best to reduce those impacts with alternative transportation planning,” Nygaard said. “Every use on that site has to do its fair share to reduce impacts.”

Noise created by aquatic center use was also a concern.

Staff replied noise reduction features are a planned part of the build, and include a wall and white noise fountain in the senior center courtyard.

Commissioner Tom Morrissey was the sole commissioner who said he supports plans.

“I think the uses are compatible, I think it’s a great plan,” Morrissey said.

A half dozen residents also spoke in favor of plans “as is” and the benefits of an aquatic center. Several said it is good for seniors to have the pools within close proximity.

Commissioners recommended the consideration of more space between facilities and the assurance of traffic mitigation measures. The City Council will hear the item at a future date.

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