La Jolla Children’s Pool Walk beautification begins

After years and years of delays, The Children’s Pool Walk Beautification Project got underway this month — seriously.

In mid-July, fencing went up and crews were on site along Coast Boulevard South.

La Jolla resident and project originator Phyllis Minick commented: “It’s been so long coming and none of the predictions from before have come to fruition, so with cautious reserve, I’m planning the celebration party! After all this time, it is in the engineers’ hands and they have been very cooperative and have been wonderfully helpful.”

The project will enhance pedestrian flow, install visitor “sitting walls” with vegetation, and improve aesthetics on the sidewalk area above La Jolla’s Children’s Pool beach. The stairs leading to the beach and seawall remain accessible during construction.

This is the latest iteration of the project, which has been in process and repeatedly revised since 2010. The scope of work spans:

1) from the top of the stairs leading down to the Children’s Pool and front of the lifeguard tower, where short planters/sitting walls will be installed and filled with drought-tolerant plantings;

2) along the sidewalk heading north, where the landscaping will be removed and concrete will be replaced;

3) on Coast Boulevard, where a crosswalk will be painted (there is currently a pedestrian ramp but no crosswalk);

4) further north on the sidewalk, where additional teardrop-shaped planters/sitting walls will be installed;

5) the gazebo fronting where sitting walls and bike racks will be installed;

6) and up the street, where the white picket fence that lines toward Scripps Park will be extended. Benches at the site will remain.

In the area surrounding Children’s Pool, harbor seal pupping season is observed from Dec. 15 to May 15 annually. City crews previously said the work is expected to take five months, bringing it down to the wire for pupping season. There is also a summer construction moratorium, but it was waived by La Jolla Parks & Beaches, Inc. and the La Jolla Community Planning Association to accommodate this project.

Minick said the engineers believe the project will be complete in November.

Back in 2010, Minick set out to beautify the area and contracted landscape architect Jim Neri to design the plans. Neri’s renderings were approved by the La Jolla Parks & Beaches as a private project. However, a Fair Political Practices Commission opinion determined it would constitute a conflict-of-interest violation to have a contractor create plans and then bid on the same project. Consequently, Neri was excluded from carrying out the work, and the City took over the responsibility.

The hope was then to have the project completed while the Children’s Pool Lifeguard Tower was being replaced in 2013, but that was not deemed possible. The tower construction was supposed to take eight months, but faced myriad delays, ranging from issues with materials to a nesting seagull chick to inconsistent design plans. It opened in June 2016.

While construction on the lifeguard tower was underway, the City produced its required environmental documents and identified funding for the beautification project. Forward movement on the plans did not take place until October 2016, when City engineers set construction for June 2017.

In May 2017, City engineers determined the wall that lines the Children’s Pool may be historic, which would affect any improvements, and then there were safety issues to be addressed. The City said it would explore “scaled down” alternatives to the more elaborate plans originally submitted.

To bypass the historicity of the wall, City crews decided to move the scope of work away from the wall in order to proceed.

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