New lifeguard tower in La Jolla meets ADA-compliance ... just not to the beach

By Ashley Mackin

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The slope leading from the south side of the current lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool in La Jolla is the only way for paraplegic swimmers like Jack Robertson to access the sand. It is not ADA-compliant. Pat Sherman

With the Children’s Pool beach lifeguard tower set for June demolition and a rebuild planned soon after, one detail is still causing concern for paraplegic and lifelong swimmer Jack Robertson of La Jolla.

While the tower plans adhere to all Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, there is still no safe ADA-compliant way to access the sand from the end of the proposed ramp.

The slope leading down to the sand is too steep to be ADA-compliant, but for Robertson, that is his safest option. He said the beach will be used by all people, not just those in wheelchairs, and that making the Children’s Pool ADA-accessible would make it a tourism draw because it would be the only such beach in the area.

The lifeguard tower plans, as approved, include access to public restrooms and showers via the ramp. There will be at least one ADA- compliant stall. From there, all beach-goers must use a set of stairs to reach the sand.

This is in accordance with 2010 ADA Standards, which state that when altering paths of travel, “Restrooms, telephones and drinking fountains serving the altered area, (must be) readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs.”

The plans as a whole have been approved, and the coastal development permit and site development permit have been granted, with only minor changes going back to community planning groups. For example, the La Jolla Parks and Beaches (LJP&B) committee heard updates about the tower color at its March 25 meeting.

City officials say at the time the lifeguard tower plans were drafted for the Children’s Pool, beach access was not as big an issue as it is now, so such was not taken into consideration.

At the LJP&B meeting, City of San Diego project manager Jihad Sleiman said access beyond the ramp is not within the scope of the current project.

However, Robertson countered, “Go one step further and extend the ramp down to the high-tide line. Children’s Pool is such a tourist attraction as it is, but if that happened, we could boast that (the beach is) ADA-accessible.”

There is now a slope leading from the south side of the current lifeguard tower to the sand that is too steep and cracked to be considered ADA-compliant. There is nothing in the new lifeguard tower plans to alter the slope or build around it.

Willing to take the risk, Robertson said he often asks the ranger at Children’s Pool to unlock the gate to the current slope so he can go down to the water and swim. When refused, he has to be carried down the stairs.

“I don’t like to ask my same friends to help me down the steps because they’ve gotten as old as I have and their backs are out,” he said. “My son is 23 and he’s helped me since he was 14 or 15, and I don’t want to see him do damage to his back.”

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