‘Vandalism’ or ‘weathering’? Discoloration of Children’s Pool plaque brings conflicting explanations

A discolored plaque at the Children's Pool in La Jolla is pictured before it was cleaned.
(Courtesy of Melinda Merryweather)

The presence of what appeared to be a white substance on one of the newer plaques at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool has the city of San Diego and a community volunteer at odds.

Resident Melinda Merryweather calls the plaque’s discoloration “vandalism.” The city calls it “weathering.”

The clouding of the plaque was first noticed in December and appeared to be caused by a white powder that “had been brushed on; it wasn’t thrown on or spilled,” said Merryweather, a member of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board. She added that it didn’t come off easily.

Though rains soon came, the discoloration remained. “It adhered to the plaque,” Merryweather said.

Wearing gloves for fear of toxicity, Merryweather got a soft brush and soap and water to clean the plaque, she said.

“It came off, but it left a film,” she added. “It appeared like someone was trying to cover the plaque. It’s a form of vandalism. It’s disrespectful that anyone would abuse the plaque, so I found that annoying.”

The Children's Pool plaque after it was cleaned.
(Courtesy of Melinda Merryweather)

Contrary to Merryweather, city representatives don’t see the discoloration as an act of vandalism but as natural weathering of the plaque.

“Staff took a look ... and concluded the plaque and concrete had experienced normal weathering that may have been exacerbated by the recent rains,” said Parks & Recreation Department spokesman Tim Graham. “They will check on the plaque periodically moving forward and clean as needed.”

The plaque was installed as part of the Children’s Pool Plaza project of 2018, which removed some landscaping, replaced and expanded the sidewalk, and added sitting walls and bike racks to the area overlooking the Children’s Pool at 850 Coast Blvd. The plaque reads: “The Children’s Pool. Given June 1, 1931 by Ellen Browning Scripps.” ◆