Where did La Jolla’s Ariel go? A missing mermaid’s tale

At left, the mermaid statue at 1250 Prospect St. — a tourist magnet for 30 years — disappeared on Aug. 12 and Jalila Lissilaa, owner of the adjacent Lissilaa Boutique, doesn't understand why.

Sometime in the morning of Monday, Aug. 12, La Jolla Cove lost an icon. A popular mermaid, cast from seven feet of bronze, was removed from 1250 Prospect St. by its owners and will never return.

Retail tenants adjacent to the removed statue are not pleased with the change, which is part of a renovation of the luxury open-air shopping mall due to be completed this fall.

“It’s a landmark of La Jolla, and it brought me a lot of business,” said Jalila Lissilaa, owner of Lissilaa Boutique. “People took pictures in front of it every day.” (Indeed, “Where to find the Mermaid Statue” is the title of a La Jolla forum on the website TripAdvisor.)

“That was a lovely sculpture,” added Hafed Chaabane, owner of Bella Jolla jewelry store. “A lot of people with families love it and come upstairs just to take a picture, because there you can also see the ocean ... and then they get to see our shops.”

The statue was installed in 1989 on a second-floor landing of the mall that no longer exists. The current owners moved it to a pedestrian bridge after purchasing and redesigning 1250 Prospect St. in 1996. As part of the current remodel, that bridge is set to be removed shortly.

After leaving a voicemail for one of the mall’s co-owners, the Light received a return call from a representative of the property’s management company.

“We’ve heard mixed responses,” said the rep, who only agreed to speak if we didn’t publish her name. “Change isn’t always easy. But we know at the end of the day, we want to do what’s best for the building, and we know it’s going to bring more traffic and look better and everyone will benefit.”

Lissilaa said she can’t see how tenants or tourists can possibly benefit. She said the statue was gone only a few hours before she received her first negative feedback. It was from a family visiting from South Korea, who had taken a photo in front of it 20 years ago and returned to recreate the pose.

“I had to tell them it’s not here anymore,” she said. “You should have seen how disappointed they were. It’s so sad.”

The mermaid statue is being donated to ZLAC Rowing Club in Pacific Beach, according to ZLAC president Karen Bachofer, who said it will be installed on the northern edge of the property, with a plaque honoring the “Ancient Mermaids,” a group of ZLAC women who rowed into their late ‘80s.