La Jolla submits Children’s Pool structural report and awaits word on sought-after repairs to seawall

La Jolla's Children's Pool
La Jolla’s Children’s Pool was heavily discussed at the Jan. 23 La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting, including a structural engineering study submitted recently to the city of San Diego.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The city of San Diego says there’s also no schedule set for repairing a storm-damaged railing that has closed the seawall walkway.


La Jolla’s Children’s Pool took center stage at the La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting Jan. 23 following submission to the city of San Diego of a structural engineering study of the nearly 100-year-old landmark and a storm that knocked a safety railing into the sea.

The Children’s Pool, 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.

LJP&B commissioned an $11,258 engineering study in late 2021, led by local engineer Matt Mangano and his firm, MDEP Inc., to assess the structural condition of the Children’s Pool. While the report includes some repair recommendations, it does not propose an overall project or scope of work.

The purpose of the report, Mangano said, is to “front-run the study phase and engineering work the city would have to do anyway” should it decide to make repairs. “We’re handing that to them on a platter.”

Funding for the study came 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.

LJP&B President Bob Evans called the report “quite comprehensive and detailed” and noted that among the findings, it categorizes “the overall condition of the seawall as ‘poor’ and needs to be addressed promptly.”

The report estimates that repairs to the seawall alone would cost $2.3 million, not including repairs to the stairs or surrounding retaining walls.

“We need to repair the wall now, because every day that we don’t repair it, that finish line gets further away from us. We’re fighting against the clock.”

— Matt Mangano

Mangano said the report was submitted to the city’s Parks & Recreation Department at the end of 2022 to be circulated throughout appropriate city departments in the hope that comments would be available by LJP&B’s meeting. However, “they hadn’t made enough progress to provide any comments yet,” Mangano said.

Should the city greenlight a project to fix the seawall or make other changes to extend its life span based on the findings in the report, construction plans would be handled by various city departments. Given that harbor seals haul out at the Children’s Pool, an environmental impact report likely would be required, Mangano said.

“The impact to the entire environment around the seawall is being considered intimately,” he said. “There is much more involved naturally on the seawall repair than the seals. There is a lot that is being considered. … We want to minimize invasiveness, not only to the structure itself but to the surrounding area.”

Minick commended Mangano for “dealing with this in a way that no one else could.” While visitors are quick to point out the pieces that need to be repaired, “you are actually giving us an avenue to get it done,” she said.

Mangano said he’s going to put in another “six to 12 months of work” before a repair project can be crafted. “We’re going to continue to coordinate with the different people we have brought to the table and the city.”

He said he would submit a final cost breakdown to LJP&B when the report is finished and approved.

Storm damage

Soon after the report was filed, a storm caused ocean swells large enough to knock down a protective railing on the seawall walkway. The city closed pedestrian access to the seawall Jan. 10.

Big waves smack the seawall at the Children's Pool during recent stormy weather, causing damage to a safety railing.
(Gary Robbins / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

At the time, city spokesman Benny Cartwright said staff members would be onsite soon to evaluate the damage. “The gate will remain closed until the repairs are complete,” he said.

In an update to the La Jolla Light on Jan. 23, Cartwright said “city workers were out last week and determined that they will be able to repair the railing but are working on ordering the correct materials. They do not have [a completion schedule] at this time.”

Though the seawall withstood the recent storms, “we need to repair the wall now, because every day that we don’t repair it, that finish line gets further away from us. We’re fighting against the clock,” Mangano told LJP&B.

“The wall is not going to turn over,” he said, “but I think the failure mechanism would be a collapse onto itself. It’s not going to have a brutal failure without an event, and we just had an event [the storms, that it survived], but an earthquake might harm it.”

Historic district

Though not connected to the Mangano report, the Children’s Pool is part of an effort to designate an entire section of the La Jolla coastline as a historic district. In coming months, the proposed La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District will be reviewed by a state board as a step toward potential designation on the National Register of Historic Places.

If the historic district is approved, the Children’s Pool will be designated along with it. With that designation, additional funding could be made available to fund its repair, and any repairs would have to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

The nomination is tentatively scheduled for consideration by the State Historical Resources Commission during its April 21 meeting.

Working group

Given all the work and attention being given to the Children’s Pool, LJP&B decided to form a working group to connect with Mangano, the city and the board, provide updates when available, seek funding when a project is proposed and approved, and other tasks that may arise. ◆