ENCINITAS — Pacific View School Academy of the Arts, cared for by the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance for the last eight years, has taken another step closer toward becoming a public arts center.
The Encinitas City Council approved the plans and specifications of the Pacific View renovation project during a special Sept. 6 meeting, unanimously voting to begin advertising for construction bids, which are expected to be awarded in October.
The work necessary to bring the Pacific View site up to code, including ADA compliance and green building, would begin in early 2023 for a July 2024 opening.
“We’re activating a space that has not been activated in years and needs to be activated,” said Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca.
The estimated construction contract cost is $5.3 million, with a standard 10% to 15% contract contingency. The estimate does not include certain costs associated with interior decor or construction management/inspection services. City staff said the money was set aside for the project that exceeds this amount and that ancillary sources could be found in the future.
Julie Taber, the city’s public information officer, said the funds stem from “stimulus money that the federal government provided as part of pandemic relief.”
Pacific View, once saved from a commercial sale at auction, was purchased by the city for $10 million from the Encinitas Union School District in 2014. While it’s been closed to the public, volunteers of the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance have poured tens of thousands of dollars into the ongoing maintenance of the building.
Part of those efforts includes a shade canopy and outdoor benches for future patrons of a future arts center. Members of the EACEA spoke out about some of the plans — which some feel is redundant to the organization’s work — and persuaded a supplement to the motion that would salvage the materials of the canopy and benches to recycle them for similar purposes.
Assistant City Manager Jennifer Campbell told the council that last week’s meeting was meant to bring the building up to code. Future construction uses would have to comply with zoning designations, to be discussed by the city’s Commission for the Arts at a future meeting.
Campbell said upgrades are needed to make the building “inhabitable” and energy efficient.
The council initially chose one of two options for Pacific View’s interior and exterior color schemes. However, the decision was ultimately deferred to public input and will be a future agenda item between the Encinitas Friends of the Arts and the arts commission.
Garth Murphy, some EACEA members and other residents disagreed over the reconstruction’s elements, including undoing much of the labor done by volunteers.
Murphy, who has worked on preserving 22 buildings and spent 2,000 hours to upkeep Pacific View, finds the demolition wasteful.
“The roof is good and the most expensive thing we did in the process,” Murphy said.
During public comment, Jeff Katz, of Jeff Katz Architecture and a project designer, said the roof needs work to comply with state code requirements.
“In order to comply with current codes, [structural engineers found] additional shear on the roof was required, and the solution that’s being proposed is what we believe is the most cost-effective solution,” Katz said, adding that the work necessary helps the roof counteract seismic events.
Other members spoke about the efficiency and potential the building already has, thanks to the work of volunteers. At the meeting, one member said he’s invested at least $85,000 into Pacific View out of pocket and wondered if the council needed to direct the entirety of its funds set for the project into construction – rather than activity costs.
Ashley Mazanec told the council of Pacific Views’ current “European energy saving design.”
Mazanec said six classrooms on the north side of the building were constructed using a passive thermal heating and cooling system.
“Cooling in the summer is achieved by opening a ceiling-level bank of high windows on the south wall to force out rising hot air pushed by a stream of cool air drawn in from open windows down low on the north wall,” Mazanec explained.
Mazanec said the building uses a cool ocean breeze to naturally set the interior to an average temperature of 62 degrees – a comfortable temperature she can attest to after attending meetings in the building for years.
“This building is impressive and inspiring as it is,” Mazanec said. “It actually performs effectively both in the summer and the winter because hot air rises and exits clear falls to where we work in play.”
Despite some calls to slow down the project, with some even arguing that the city is “piecemealing” the project to avoid a CEQA event, the City Council’s approval was met with applause from the audience.
The project’s scope is limited to maintenance on a standing building and does not trigger CEQA.
“We’ve waited for this for 10 years, and we’ve done important work in the meantime. Everyone who has touched this property and this project… everyone has made a difference,” said Councilmember Joy Lyndes.