A $3.8 million lifeguard tower installed last summer at San Diego’s La Jolla Shores is causing some distortion and visibility issues for lifeguards on duty, city officials and local lifeguards confirmed.
According to Scott Robinson, public information officer for the City of San Diego, the new beach safety facility was installed in summer 2013. Shortly after construction, lifeguards began noticing a glare and reflection that started causing some visibility issues at the observation tower.
“The reflection on the three window panels and the distortion located at the edges of each window panel became apparent after installation,” Robinson told NBC 7 San Diego in a statement Tuesday.
After that, Robinson said some experiments were performed at the tower to try to curb the distortion.
“Subsequently, two types of window tint were tested on the interior side of the glass windows. While each tint reduced the glare and distortion, it became apparent that further study was required to identify the cause of the problem,” said Robinson.
Now, the time has come for that further study at the tower, as lifeguards say it’s impacting their day-to-day work at La Jolla Shores.
According to San Diego Lifeguard Capt. Nick Lerma, the visibility problem has resulted in extra staffing at the La Jolla tower right at the time of day when the glare and distortion is at its peak. Lerma said an additional lifeguard is needed for about three hours every day when the visibility is compromised.
“During the latter part of the day there’s glare that comes in that sort of reflects and the lifeguard is unable to see clearly through the glass,” Lerma explained.
Essentially, Lerma said the distortion problem is this: lifeguards will see something on their left.
“But with the way the glass is set up it creates an optical illusion,” he explained. “It’s something like a mirroring effect, so whatever they’re seeing on their left, it’s actually happening on their right.”
Robinson said that this month, an expert specializing in window glazing issues will begin conducting “a thorough assessment of the problem” at the tower. The expert will then give the city recommendations, which Robinson said “should be implemented in summer 2014.”
Mark Nassar, deputy of architecture and engineering with the Public Works Department, said the city is trying to address the problem.
“We’ve tried a couple of different remedies, tinting options, and we couldn’t figure out the problem.
We’re now hiring an expert,” said Nassar. “There were different glasses tried at this station, tempered, non-tempered types of tinting tried. It may not be just glass, we don’t know exactly what the cause is but the expert will tell us.”
Nassar said it will cost approximately $75,000 to fix the lifeguard tower. He said the City of San Diego will recover the cost from the manufacturer or whoever is responsible for the problem.
In the meantime, lifeguards in the area are using another tower adjacent to the problematic one and will continue to staff an additional lifeguard during that peak time when the glare makes it especially hard to see the beach beyond.
“During that period [it] makes us comfortable in knowing that we’re covering the area adequately and safeguarding the public,” added Lerma.
Last week, “La Jolla Light” spoke with San Diego Lifeguard Union spokesperson Ed Harris regarding the tower. Harris also told the outlet that lifeguard views from the upper observation booth are, in fact, being obscured by light distortion in part because the right type of glass wasn’t used for the project. .