Early estimate suggests repairing Children’s Pool seawall in La Jolla would cost $2.3 million
In hopes of extending the life of La Jolla’s Children’s Pool as it nears its centennial anniversary, a La Jolla-based engineering firm that has been studying the local landmark with funding from the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board estimated that repairs to the area’s seawall alone would cost $2.3 million, not including repairs to the stairs or surrounding retaining walls.
The update on the project during Parks & Beaches’ July 25 meeting at the La Jolla/Riford Library was an information item and the board did not vote. The report that will come from the study is expected to be complete by the end of the year and is intended as a recommendation to the city of San Diego.
The $11,258 engineering study, led by local engineer Matt Mangano and his firm MDEP Inc., looks to “really dig into all the expertise we have available … and really dive into this the way we want to,” Mangano said.
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 Children’s Pool features include the top and face of the coastal sandstone bluff that anchors the stairways; 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.
In studying the structure, the team identified a series of challenges to repairing the seawall.
Chief among them include finding the right type of concrete for the seaside site that would be able to last “for the next 100 years.”
The “big concern” is waterproofing the structure, Mangano said. He added that the team likely would have to do some sort of “investigative demolition” at the seawall to better understand how deep into the wall the new surface would need to go.
“It has to do with the porousness of the concrete,” he said. “The wall is built ingeniously into the reef itself. It was intended to follow the reef and it was executed fantastically, but they also built it using a handmade rail system to dig caissons into the reef. We’re going to have to make strong educated guesses about the stability of that reinforcement throughout the project because we are not going to cut the wall open and travel through it.”
Additional repairs likely would be made to the stairs leading to the beach, including filling in some caverns under the pedestrian walkways.
“It’s not just about the surface, it’s the interior and how it is all held up,” Mangano said. Part of the recommendation will be to reconstruct the stairs.
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.
“This is an underlying feature of our local community. When people come to this part of the world, the first thing they ask for is to go to the Children’s Pool,” Minick said. “So to reinforce these features and make them available for the future is incredibly important.”
The Children’s Pool is not formally designated historic, though it is being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
Regarding funding for the repairs, Mangano said the rest of the repair, other than the seawall, is “much more conventional” and that money may become available should the Children’s Pool be listed on the National Register.
The listing “absolutely will go hand in hand” with the repair work, he said.
From here, Mangano said he and his team would revisit the site except during the annual harbor seal pupping season (which is recognized from December to May), continue meeting with contractors and move toward design specifications.
Once the report is complete, it will be circulated to community planning groups for comments and submitted to the city. ◆
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