Community weighs in on Solana Santa Fe School design ideas

Solana Santa Fe School is due for a modernization, expected to begin in 2021.
(Karen Billing)

The Solana Beach School District continues community outreach efforts as it works on conceptual designs for the Solana Santa Fe School update. The school’s modernization project seeks to improve facilities for students and improve the traffic situation for its neighbors in Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch.

Solana Beach School District’s Director of Capital Programs Caroline Brown said the district is excited for the $16.2 million modernization that will be the district’s next big Measure JJ project after the Solana Vista School rebuild that will begin construction this summer. Solana Santa Fe will be constructed in phases over two “summer sprints” starting in summer 2021.

Unlike Solana Vista, the Solana Santa Fe project is a modernization, not a rebuild. Plans include getting rid of existing portables and building a new two-story classroom building, updating the administration office to be safer and more efficient, re-configuring the kindergarten classrooms and moving the play area away from the street and creating a much bigger food service area to serve students at lunchtime.

The large drainage culvert will be paved over and there will be significant enhancements to the parking and queue to improve the traffic flow into and out of the school.

A community design session held on Feb. 4 included staff, current and future parents and neighbors including a representative from the Fairbanks Ranch Association. The group worked through exercises to see what they would and would not like to see in the exterior and interiors with Brown and architect Steven Kendrick of Leonakis Architecture.

Community members were looking for a design that matches the neighborhood’s Spanish colonial architecture and the style of Ray Watt, the developer of Fairbanks Ranch. Most agreed that something that is “super modern” would not blend well in the area—they preferred designs that were clean, contemporary and low-profile.

For the interiors, the group preferred natural materials, natural light, flexible spaces and warm colors. The group also shared their concerns about site safety and fire-safe landscaping.

According to Brown, the biggest driving factor in the modernization design is solving the traffic ingress and egress issues. Neighbors shared their concerns about the back-ups that plague El Apajo Road and San Dieguito Road.

The new design plans to maximize parking and stacking on site: The east driveway will be closed off during drop-off and pick-up and there will be a new right-turn pocket on El Apajo and two lanes going out of the parking lot.

Parking stalls will be increased from 40 to 74 spaces, including a separate new staff parking lot on the west side. Within the lot, there will be room for 39 cars and two lanes for queuing rather than one.

“With the other lane, people won’t get stuck in the queue,” said Solana Santa Fe Principal Matt Frumovitz. “The queue is going to be moving.”

The school district plans to continue the design development, community outreach and approval process throughout the year. The project is anticipated to be complete in fall 2022.

The capacity of Solana Santa Fe is for 414 to 440 students with eight identified specialty and special education spaces. Currently, enrollment is around 300 students and they could expect an additional 160 students from Pacific Highlands Ranch once new homes are built and occupied. The district expects enrollment to decline once development has matured in three to five years.