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Iconic water tower to undergo retrofit

Posted: January 26th, 2018 | Communities, News, North Park, Top Story | No Comments

By Ken Williams | Editor

This spring, the historic University Heights Water Tower — commonly called the North Park Water Tower — will undergo a major project costing $2.163 million to upgrade structural deficiencies in case of an earthquake or windstorm.

Built in 1924, the water tower has been a visual landmark for generations of residents living in North Park and University Heights.

The historic University Heights Water Tower, also known as the North Park Water Tower, will be getting an upgrade on the structures that hold up the water tank. (Photo by Connor McBride)

Maryam Kargar, the city’s project manager for this particular endeavor, briefed the community at the Jan. 16 meeting of the North Park Planning Committee. She said it would be “a five-month project.”

The project design was completed earlier in January, and the work is expected to begin within a few months. Construction, which will take place only during daytime hours, is scheduled to be finished by the fall.

The design team included Rick Kennedy of Infrastructure Engineering Corp. and Subash Patel of Beyaz & Patel.

Located at the intersection of Howard Avenue and Idaho Street, the water tower can be seen for miles and once contained 1.2 million gallons of water until it ceased operations in the 1990s. In its heyday, the water tower supplied water at adequate pressure for the growing communities of University Heights and North Park.

On Nov. 5, 2015, the American Society of Civil Engineers proclaimed the water tower as a Local Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. The water tower also is on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C in the area of civil engineering.

Time, however, has taken its toll of the physical structure that keeps the water tower in place: 12 steel girders that hold up the riveted steel tank. The seismic retrofit project calls for:

Replacement (in-kind) of the existing corroded tie-rod, bracing and gusset places, corroded washers and anchor bolts.

Extension of column footing foundation.

Graffiti mars the historic water tower. (Photo by Connor McBride)

Lead coating abatement and repainting the lower portions of the structures to match the weathered appearance and color of the existing tower.

Kargar said the project has been reviewed and approved by the city’s historical staff to make sure that the historical integrity of the water tower will not be impacted by the construction work.

Katherine and Steve Hon, of the North Park Historical Society, said the project also met with their approval. Katherine Hon said the historical society did not ask for the water tank itself to be repainted.

“We want to keep that patina,” she said.

Kargar said no work will be done to the water tank, the catwalk or the ladders. However, some audience members asked that the gang graffiti be removed from the water tank.

Fencing surrounding the water tower will be made higher, Kargar said, in an effort to discourage trespassing.

One woman in the audience, learning that the water tank was not usable, sounded displeased: “So it’s $2 million to make it look pretty?”

In other news

North Park Planning Committee (NPPC) took the following action:

Unanimously approved the consent agenda granting two Process 2 neighborhood development permits. One was for 2135 Felton St., allowing construction of a one-story, single-family home on a vacant lot south of Ivy Street and north of Hawthorn Street. The other was for T-Mobile to continue using an existing wireless communications facility at 2828 University Ave. at Utah Street. NPPC had held up the application until getting assurances that T-Mobile would add a decorative element facing Utah Street that complements the Palisades sign on University Avenue that marks the former site of a roller skating rink.

Voted 13-1 to amend the NPPC Bylaws to make the North Park Maintenance Assessment District (NPMAD) a subcommittee of the advisory planning group. The amendments were cleared by the City Attorney’s Office to make sure city policy was being followed and how to resolve any differences between NPMAD and NPPC.

Announced that NPPC board elections will be held March 20 and reminded residents of North Park and eastern University Heights — which is part of the NPPC boundaries — that they had to attend at least one meeting in the past year and sign in before they were qualified to run for one of the seven seats that will be contested. Board chair René A. Vidales said he was unsure how many incumbents will stand for re-election.

Learned that several homeowners are appealing the November 2017 decision by the city’s Historic Resources Board to designate Valle Vista Terrace a historic district. Valle Vista Terrace is north of Adams Avenue and west of Texas Street, along Panorama Drive and Cliff Street, on the east side of University Heights. Many of the houses in Valle Vista Terrace overlook Mission Valley. The subdivision has 86 houses on 89 parcels, including 10 that are already deemed historically designated sites and 61 contributing buildings that were constructed between 1908 and 1942. NPPC board member Dionné Carlson urged residents to attend the meeting, tentatively scheduled at 2 p.m. Feb. 6, to support historical preservation efforts. Vidales said city staff is recommending that the City Council reject the appeal.

—Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News. Follow him on Twitter at @KenSanDiego, Instagram at @KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.

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