Laguna Beach Unified School District trustees are sticking with their goal of getting a bid for a more extensive tennis court repair project after hearing the city's proposal for a less-expensive solution.
Trustees met with City Council members and district and city staff Tuesday to discuss the state of six tennis courts on district property across Park Avenue from Laguna Beach High School.
The city and district share the courts through a joint-use agreement, which requires the city pay 70% for improvements and the district 30%. The percentages align with the hours the courts are available for public and high school use.
Residents say the court surfaces are unsafe because they are slippery, dirty and cracked. The courts have not been resurfaced since 2008 in anticipation of a repair project, according to a city staff report.
The original project budget was $300,000 in 2010-11, the staff report said, but the cost has steadily increased.
District and city officials renegotiated a 10-year joint-use agreement last year with a preliminary project cost of $620,000, which included post-tension, where steel cables are embedded in a concrete slab and tightened. The method, designed to prevent cracking, is more involved than the initial plans for sandblasting and repainting court surfaces.
Project architect LPA Inc offered a revised estimate of $1.86 million to $2.1 million because of the higher-than-expected cost for post-tension and the replacement of a concrete ramp between the pool and the courts to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
The city doesn't have the additional funds in its budget, Deputy City Manger Ben Siegel said.
The city proposed an alternative plan at a reduced cost that did not include post-tension courts.
Three vendors provided quotes between $127,000 and $218,000 for hydroblasting five of the six courts — one court already has post-tension cables — removing and replacing damaged concrete, patching cracks, grinding high spots and applying three layers of paint, the city staff report said. Crews would also repair the plaster facade along Park Avenue and a damaged block wall along one of the courts.
"We feel [the work] would bring those courts to the same standard of maintenance as all of our city courts," Siegel said. The city maintains 12 additional tennis courts, with at least six having post-tension.
Post-tension provides a longer-lasting stable surface and traditionally reduces the size and scope of any cracks that may appear, LPA managing partner Arash Izadi said.
Parent Michelle Jaeger said the high school courts support greater numbers of players than other facilities and deserve commensurate care.
"You can not compare use of the high school courts to any other court in the city," said Jaeger, who said the Park Avenue courts provided a place for her two daughters to learn and play tennis. "Sixty to 100 kids play there every day, from 3 to 8 o'clock. Go to Alta Laguna or Lang Park and you're lucky to see 60 people there in a week, let alone a month."
Resident Tijana Hamilton reiterated concerns that the courts are unsafe and unsightly.
"You get what you pay for," Hamilton said. "Court No. 6 had not one crack on it, and that is the only post-tension court. You promised taxpayers and kids an improvement project, an improvement over existing conditions, not a maintenance project. Stop stringing us along."
Councilman Steve Dicterow said the city's proposed maintenance project would "be more than adequate" to serve residents who use the courts for recreational play, but acknowledged Hamilton and Jaeger's concerns.
"Clearly the parents have a good point," Dicterow said in a phone interview Wednesday. "If it comes down to providing something that primarily benefits the school district [such as high school matches] the financial burden should be heavier on the school district."
He added that if a post-tension project is eventually built and the city pays its 70% part, the joint-use agreement should be extended beyond 10 years to align with the courts' proposed longer life span.
Board member Ketta Brown might be willing to consider a compromise once the district receives an official bid.
"Once we get a real bid, it may come back $900,000," Brown said. "I might consider 50% (which would mean an equal funding split between the district and city).
"I don't know where we would come up with the money ... but I know kids need a safe playing surface."