DEL MAR — Under sunny skies city officials, lifeguards, members of the construction team and residents gathered Wednesday for the grand opening of the 17th Street beach safety center, a $2.7 million, state-of-the-art facility that culminates 10 years in the making.
“This is quite an achievement,” Mayor Carl Hilliard said, thanking the community he described as “generous, involved and giving.”
The 2,800-square-foot, two-story building replaced a deteriorating tower built in 1964. It had structural cracks, termite damage and a cramped area that doubled as an administrative meeting room and first-aid station.
The shower and locker room were used by men and women and the restroom was not compliant with federal disability laws.
The new facility has a dedicated first-aid room, second-floor administrative space, and observation deck with a slide pole for quick beach access, a viewing telescope, dispatch space and accessible public restrooms.
“It was a little overwhelming at first, but it’s incredible,” lifeguard Matt Becker said. “We’ll be able to serve the public a lot better.”
In addition to comments from various City Council members, the opening included a Hawaiian blessing from Hanalei Vierra and acknowledgements from Barbara Harper, president of Friends of the Powerhouse, which raised more than $700,000 for the project.
Additional funding included $700,000 from the sale of a city-owned lot on Balboa Avenue, $450,000 from the city and a $650,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy.
“This is the type of project the conservancy wants to support,” Sam Jenniches from the Coastal Conservancy said. “I am amazed how much it was embraced by the community.”
Councilman Mark Filanc, who served as a liaison for the project with Terry Sinnott, said in some other cities residents complain when things need to be done.
“Here in Del Mar, we have residents who just come down and do it,” he said. “It’s exciting to live in that kind of community.”
The project also features a new sea wall and a boardwalk from the street that provides “the safest, easiest and most attractive access to the beach in the city,” Hilliard said.
Boardwalk planks and bricks can still be purchased, Harper said.
During construction the 20th Street tower served as lifeguard headquarters and two rooms at the adjacent Del Mar Hotel housed administrative and staff offices. Lifeguards moved into the new facility June 26, a day before the public opening.
“It’s just amazing,” said Pat Vergne, community services director and chief lifeguard.