The pending renovation of the Ole Hanson Beach Club loomed large Tuesday in discussions among the San Clemente Beaches, Parks and Recreation Commission members.
Leading into the annual budgeting process, commissioners deemed as a high priority replacing playground equipment; fixing the beach stairs at El Portal; building new lifeguard towers with adjustable legs to handle increasingly steep beaches; and fixing the park system's restrooms starting with the Pier.
But by far the most expensive project will be the restoration of the historic beach club. Originally budgeted for $2.5 million, architects who examined the building put the rehab at $3.7 million.
But the San Clemente City Council over two meetings have made suggestions for improvements that have caused cost estimates to balloon even more, meaning the project could potentially drain away money from other park projects in the coming year.
But Commissioner Steve Streger said the commission was tasked with being a steward of the park system and making recommendations to council, not with creating the city budget.
"It's not our job to free up money for them to finish the Ole Hanson Beach Club," he said. "If they want to do it, they'll do it. We don't need to dump all our projects to make it easier for them."
The commissioners were in agreement, however, that it was important to finish the beach club renovations as soon as possible. Water damage will only get worse with time, and the pool can't be reopened at all without necessary fixes.
The project was initially proposed with two phases -- the first at $2.5 million and the second at $1.2 million -- but the commission advised that the council try to finish the project in one go.
Some planned projects the commission recommended be kicked down the road for a few years were the $1-million replacement of sports lights at Steed Park, replacement of street trees on Avenida Del Mar, lighting replacement at San Luis Rey tennis courts, $300,000-plus repair of the Bonita Canyon tennis courts, and hooking up local parks to the new recycled water system that will break ground within a month or two.
Commissioner Tom Wicks, who is also involved with the Friends of San Clemente Beaches, Parks and Recreation Foundation, was upset that the commission even had to put maintenance items like playground equipment on a priority list.
"I'd really like the council to know that we are in disagreement about even having to do this," he said. "We should take care of this -- things fall apart, and they fall apart faster near the beach."
Part of the problem comes from the fact that the reserve fund for Beaches, Parks and Rec contains about $1 million, while the recommendation for a system as big as San Clemente's is to have much more in reserve.
"We wouldn't have to go through these ministrations if we had a $28 million parks reserve," said Parks and Rec Director Sharon Heider.