CIVIC CENTER — Fences around the 6.2-acre Tongva Park, located across from City Hall, will come down for a soft opening today, at which time the public can catch a first glimpse of its winding pathways, lush foliage and various water features, city officials announced Monday during a tour with local media.
The construction of Tongva Park saved City Hall $7 million, costing a total of $42.3 million, city officials said.
It is expected to serve as a link between the Civic Center, the Santa Monica Pier, Downtown and Palisades Park.
Construction for the park, located between Ocean Avenue and Main Street, and the 1-acre Ken Genser Square in front of City Hall started last year.
Tongva Park boasts more than 300 trees and four hilltop areas ranging from Garden Hill with foliage and blooms; Discovery Hill where kids can play on slides and a music wall; Observation Hill that reaches 18 feet and offers views of the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean; and Gathering Hill, where folks can have an informal picnic and take in an old fig tree.
The park includes the “Three Amigos,” or three Ficus trees that were relocated from Olympic Drive; Morty, the more than century old Moreton Bay Fig tree; as well as strawberry, olive and Torrey pine trees.
The city’s newest park is named after the Native American people who inhabited the land before the arrival of Spanish settlers.
“Tongva Park was designed to recollect an arroyo and if you think of an arroyo with a source of water and native and indigenous grasses and topography, that’s kind of the essence of the park,” said Karen Ginsberg, director of Community and Cultural Services for City Hall.
She said the water features are linked by a runnel that travels through the main path in the park, ending with an Ocean Avenue feature that has more splash and is bigger in volume.
The park, which was previously the RAND Corp. headquarters, is bounded by Main Street, the future Olympic Drive, Ocean Avenue and Interstate 10.
The Santa Monica Police Department is folding monitoring the park premises into its patrols, Ginsberg said.
During the public process for the park, Ginsberg said people wanted to get views incorporated into the park. One area where folks can catch a glimpse of the pier and the ocean is standing under a geometric shaped overlook at Observation Hill.
At Discovery Hill, located closer to City Hall, kids can play on slides, geometric-shaped jungle gyms or scale a hill with rock-climbing holds. The idea behind the children’s playground was to provide kids with “free form play,” Ginsberg said.
The park, which includes seven entrances, also has a sculpture comprised of 49 stainless steel poles aligned in a grid, each supporting a weather vane and anemometer, or a device used to measure wind speed. Called “Weather Field No. 1,” it was designed by artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle.
Across Main Street sits Ken Genser Square, named after former Mayor Ken Genser who served on the City Council for 21 years. He was elected mayor three times.
Ginsberg said there will be a celebration to honor Genser’s legacy near his birthday on Nov. 17th, as requested by his family and friends.
The fountain at Ken Genser Square still needs work, said Miriam Mulder, city architect. She said the remaining issue is an aesthetic one with the water coming in between the layers of the fountain.
City Hall will hold a community celebration for Tongva Park on Oct. 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The contractor for the park was W.E. O’Neil Construction Company and the landscape architect was New York-based James Corner Field Operations, while the water feature design was from Fluidity Design Consultants.