By Delle Willett | Art on the Land
Continuing her award-winning landscape architecture, Patricia Trauth, principal landscape architect with URS Corp., is applying her expertise to San Diego International Airport’s development on the north side of the airfield, just south of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and adjacent to the intersection of Pacific Highway and Sassafras Street.
Under Trauth’s direction, previous airport landside improvements at terminal two — identified as part of “the green build” terminal expansion — achieved LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council last year.
Trauth’s latest role on north side improvement projects include development of the landscape master plan for the airport, looking at the area holistically to make sure nothing slips through the cracks from a development perspective, and that there’s a seamless landscape theme incorporated into all parts of the airport.
Subsequent work includes conceptual plans and construction documents for the interior road, called Terminal Link Road (the private road linking the north side to the terminals for shuttle purposes), the airport’s long-term economy parking lot, and Pacific Highway’s streetscape.
Project features include the streetscape, entry monumentation, gateway enhancements, landscaping, specialty lighting and fencing.
“A bigger than normal challenge on this project was dealing with the existing soil,” Trauth said. “Over the years, when environmental requirements were less stringent, the soil was polluted from industrial uses. In some areas where we excavated we hit concrete and asphalt. Also, because we are so close to the ocean, the salt content in the soil is a big issue.”
Cleanup was achieved by digging up and hauling away paving materials as well as soil, bringing in organics and top soil to amend the soil, and leeching, to move the pollutants further down into the soil.
“We judiciously applied water to leech the soil, which took more time than anticipated,” Trauth said.
“I’ve probably had a half-dozen soil analysis reports just on the one project,” she said. “The other challenge was when you excavate down about seven feet you hit the water table and you have saturated soil.”
Drainage is always an issue, especially in coastal areas. In some cases, Trauth added additional drainage tubes and will enlist periodic checks to insure water seepage is under control.
Another unique challenge to this project was the “instant landscape” that will produce a dramatic change overnight from an aesthetic perspective.
“We are using really large plant material,” Trauth said. “For example, we brought in mature pine trees (pinus alderica) from north of Los Angeles on a flatbed truck and used a crane to plant them. They were in 72-inch boxes. Survival is more complex for large trees than smaller varieties; they are not as resilient and we have to be very diligent about how they get installed and maintained.”
Just as Trauth did for terminal two’s green build expansion, she has specified drought-tolerant plants which include: desert spoon, blue oat grass, red hot poker, Japanese silver grass and Mexican sage for shrubs, and Mexican blue palm, pindo palm, Mediterranean fan palm, date palm and olive for the tree species.
In addition to regional plants, she has also specified cobblestone and boulders at the entryway, streetscapes, and in other locations throughout the area.
Storm water will be managed with the use of bioswales and retention basins at the entrance and in other key areas. Because so many trucks will be moving in and out of the area, it was not practical to use permeable pavers, but she is using pavers set on concrete to accentuate the intersection.
Work still in progress includes the Sassafras Street entrance with a large curved wall — faced with natural rock and angled upward — reminiscent of the upward movement of an airplane.
Public art is also being incorporated into the north side improvements with three pieces of art at the new car rental area.
“SANDAG is proposing a multi-modal facility right across the street from the rental car center along Pacific Highway, so with that in mind we have incorporated walkways throughout the property, to make the area pedestrian oriented,” Trauth said.
Trauth is also working on a private road that hugs the runway blast fence and connects with Harbor Drive. Development and use of this roadway will significantly reduce the volume of cars and shuttle buses on Harbor Drive.
With all these improvements, the entire north side of the airport will dramatically change in the upcoming year. The Airport Authority should be commended for the upgrades, both there and along Pacific Highway.
—Delle Willett is a PR consultant and a freelance journalist. She does pro-bono work for organizations that empower women and work to end world hunger. Reach her at email@example.com.