La Jolla Parks & Beaches study of Children’s Pool conditions gets underway

The Children's Pool in La Jolla is the subject of an engineering study.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

An engineering study of La Jolla’s 91-year-old landmark Children’s Pool is underway, commissioned by the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board and led by local engineer Matt Mangano.

The Children’s Pool, which was funded by La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, opened in 1931 at 850 Coast Blvd. to provide a wave-free shoreline for children, protected by a seawall and including stairs down from the street.

Additional features include the top and face of the coastal sandstone bluff that anchors the stairways and supports blufftop improvements, a sandstone reef that anchors the foundations of the breakwater, a small, shallow dredged marine pool between the bluffs and reef and a sandy man-made beach.

The $11,258 engineering study is “a really important one for the community,” Mangano said during LJP&B’s virtual meeting March 28. “We know we want to keep the wall in place. We know it’s deteriorating every day we don’t do something to it.”

Funding for the study comes from money left over from the Children’s Pool Plaza construction project completed in 2018, for which LJP&B member Phyllis Minick was an organizer.

Dana Garcia, manager of business operations and strategy for Mangano Consulting, said the study began with a letter to the San Diego Parks & Recreation Department detailing the scope of work, including a “limited structural observation and exposed condition assessment of specific structures.”

Garcia said a report later will be provided to the Parks & Rec and Public Works departments that will include recommendations “intended to improve the performance life, safety code compliance and useful life of the structure.”

She said the Children’s Pool is not formally designated historic, though it is currently nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

The draft of the nomination will guide the study’s work, Garcia said.

La Jollan Diane Kane, an architectural historian who Mangano said is helping with a historical perspective for the project, said “there’s a preponderance of evidence that says [the Children’s Pool] is historic. So even if it were never designated, we’d still have to treat it as if it were.”

Mangano’s group is working with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and the state historic building code to determine compliance under those frameworks, Garcia said.

“The whole point of the historic designation is to use the state historic building code, which is alternative compliance for historically designated structures, so they don’t need to come up to current code,” said Kane, who is president of the La Jolla Community Planning Association.

“That gives us the permission to put it back exactly the way it was when it was opened in 1931,” she said.

Mangano said the study is “strictly structural.” He added that he has no information on the potential impact of historical designation on the Children’s Pool’s annual five-month closure for harbor seal pupping season.

The study encompasses the results of previous testing and includes site visits and communication with other industry engineers such as concrete experts and marine contractors.

The seawall, which Mangano called “an incredible feat of engineering and construction,” guardrails and other elements are being considered “from a corrosion perspective,” along with measures of high and low tides.

“We’ve already started procuring rough estimates of the construction costs while we’re doing research construction design,” he said.

The biggest hurdle, he said, has been “the actual adherence of any new concrete or new covering to the existing … structure and all the coatings and elements that are included in that.”

The study is a Tier 1 “practical assessment” to determine specific questions to be addressed by a Tier 2 study, a structural and site assessment that includes testing that Mangano said is beyond the scope of what he’s able to do without further public approval and involvement.

“Next time we come back and speak to you, we will be talking about objectives and goals based on this current assessment,” he said. That will be in a month or two.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, April 25, online or at a location to be determined. Learn more at