Visions split for revamped Veterans Plaza; public feedback urged
by Tony De Garate
May 15, 2013 | 2388 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After two well-attended public workshops and numerous surveys, it’s become clear supporters of a new memorial to honor veterans in Ocean Beach fall into two camps.

Some favor a traditional, formal approach that emphasizes the military as an institution, serves as a geographical and historical resource and stages events.

Others prefer an artistic, informal approach that blends in with the community with more of a beach feel.

Armed with a $20,000 county grant, the Ocean Beach Community Development Corporation and its supporters are moving full-speed-ahead in designing the memorial. To make sure they’re going about it in true Ocean Beach fashion, they are asking interested citizens to go the group’s website (obcdc.org), look over the two designs and email their comments to vetsplazainfo@obcdc.org by Tuesday, May 21.

Two very different approaches have been developed by the architectural firm KTU+A, but it may well be possible to include features of both in the final design, rather than being a strictly either/or proposition.

“We’re taking elements that can be combined into one final design,” said Steve Grosch, who is chairing a committee leading the effort. “They’re pretty different designs but they’re both elegant and represent something good for Ocean Beach.”

The effort began in earnest earlier this year to replace the existing Veterans Plaza at the corner of Abbott Street and Newport Avenue, where the sidewalk medallions first appeared in the late 1990s. Over the years, the names etched into the concrete have grown increasingly unreadable be-cause of sand, foot traffic and salt air.

Both designs call for the memorial to be moved to the grassy area adjacent to the dirt employee parking lot of the lifeguard tower on Abbott Street — a few hundred feet north of the existing memorial. Both also seek to establish a dignified memorial that will stand as a place of honor, remembrance and reflection, said KTU+A principal Kurt Carlson during an April 30 public workshop.

The formal, traditional design — which has been given the title, “Defenders of the World” — features an amphitheater with two-level seating that overlooks a globe design paved on the ground, and faces a curved wall of polished granite.

Names of veterans would be etched on the wall and include a geographical marking system that relates the honoree to the war served in. The design includes storyboards identifying the nation’s major conflicts, providing educational opportunities for students and visitors, Carlson said.

The design could be ideal for Memorial Day and Veterans Day and staging other events, Carlson said.

Flags representing the five branches of service and lighting would go behind the wall with palm trees on either side of the amphitheater. The design could be accessed two ways and would be 40 feet at its widest. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Vietnam War memorial in New York City, Carlson said.

The other design, “Life Journey,” reflects the importance and significance of coastline, Carlson said.

Visitors would enter from the east side on Abbott Street and navigate a walkway that ends in a gathering plaza. The design is 32 feet at its widest, Carlson said.

“It’s really an experience as you walk through a series of spaces, rather than a plaza,” Carlson said.

On the north side would be an artificial rock wall designed to look like Sunset Cliffs. Four granite walls, 15 feet wide by 5 ½ feet tall, would face visitors as they walk west and would contain the names and possibly faces of the honorees.

The walkway would contain an inlay of stars to represent veterans lost in battle with a tide pattern that appears to flow out toward the sea. On the south side, an 18-inch wall would run the length of the walkway.

The use of the ocean serves as a powerful symbol as the end of the life journey, Carlson said, that will be further accentuated by a good sunset.

“The ocean itself is a defined edge of this design,” he said.

Citizens at the forum seemed receptive to both designs, but expressed concerns about homelessness, loitering, alcohol consumption and decreased space for groups that rely on the grassy area to hold events.

KTU+A will use public feedback to come up with a first draft to show the community by late fall, Grosch said.
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