Guest commentary: Coastal Commission’s Children’s Pool decision fails to uphold La Jolla Community Plan

Public access to the Children's Pool in La Jolla was the focus of an appeal to the Coastal Commission over a barrier wall.
Public access to the Children’s Pool in La Jolla was the focus of an appeal to the California Coastal Commission over a barrier wall.

If you saw the appeal Sept. 10 before the California Coastal Commission on the Children’s Pool ramp barrier wall, you likely sensed my frustration with the process and the unusually restrictive three-minute limit on the combined speaking time for myself and the La Jolla Community Planning Association as parties in the appeal.

It hardly seems fair or an effective process to deny the appellants enough time to cover the important issues in the appeal. We needed five minutes but combined were restricted to only three. I was not permitted to finish.

The California Coastal Commission effectively put an end to the issue of a controversial retaining wall built at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool when it ruled Sept. 10 that an appeal by the La Jolla Community Planning Association raised no new substantial issues and would not be heard further.

Sept. 11, 2020

Given a reasonable amount of time, I would have warned the commissioners of the city of San Diego’s intentional deception about a bogus Americans with Disabilities Act ramp proposal at Children’s Pool. This false ADA issue was used by the city to create confusion during this entire appeal process.

To be clear, a request for an ADA ramp was never part of our appeal. Removing a barrier wall obstructing a historical public beach access ramp was the only issue of our appeal.

The city is under no legal obligation to build an ADA ramp anywhere at Children’s Pool when they repair and reopen the existing ramp. That issue was settled in the Robertson v. City of San Diego lawsuit when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against disabled access in a separate case in Kirola v. City of San Francisco.

The confusion caused by the city over an irrelevant ADA ramp was shown to be highly effective. After my shortened presentation, the only discussion by any commissioner was of the ADA ramp by Commissioner [Caryl] Hart. The city deception worked.

The Coastal Commission is empowered to impartially evaluate coastal access issues. To be effective in their mission to uphold the Coastal Act, they have the ability to correct the city of San Diego, no matter how far they misuse their authority as partners in administering the Local Coastal Program.

I had planned to finish my presentation by providing this crucial information to the commissioners.

Reopening the Children’s Pool ramp would make this unique beach available for more people of all abilities, helping to fulfill the primary mission of the Coastal Act. As it now is, none of the pocket beaches in the Village of La Jolla are accessible to anyone unable to use stairs. The elderly and people in wheelchairs are particularly impacted by the Coastal Commission’s failure.

The city’s empty promises of future beach ramps for disabled and elderly visitors miles away at Marine Street and Sea Lane would only expose disabled visitors to extremely rough shorebreak beaches. It’s a dangerous gamble with people’s lives because it would be completely unsuitable as a replacement for the safe ocean conditions found at Children’s Pool.

It would be a simple project to repair and reopen this multipurpose ramp, making it safe again for use by nearly everyone.

When the city built a concrete wall blocking the beach ramp to Children’s Pool, there were dozens of conflicts with the La Jolla Community Plan/LCP. The commission excused them all, invalidating community input in managing community resources in the Coastal Zone.

The La Jolla Community Plan is worthless when such obvious violations are not taken seriously and are so casually dismissed by the commission.

Ken Hunrichs is president of Friends of the Children’s Pool.