Plan for La Jolla coastline to be dubbed a historic district hits a snag

The Children's Pool would be part of the proposed La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

A state hearing is postponed amid questions about notification, landscaping, and seal and sea lion protections.


Organizers of plans to designate part of the La Jolla coastline as a historic district have hit a few bumps.

Chiefly, they’ve needed to postpone a state hearing so that all affected property owners could be sufficiently notified and a landscape plan could be refined. There also are concerns from a local animal-rights group.

The proposal was presented at the March 27 La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting, where La Jolla Historical Society Landmark Committee chairwoman Seonaid McArthur discussed the concept and the issues that have come up.

“There are enough things along our coastline from Torrey Pines Road at Coast Walk to the most southerly part of Coast Boulevard … sites, landmarks, buildings, structures, that when you bring them together, they have a huge impact,” McArthur said. “What our nomination proves is, the economic well-being and development of the town is directly related to our coastline.”

The planned La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District, centered on the theme of access to the ocean, would include:

• Eight acres of coastal parkland surrounding The Village
• Landmark areas such as The Cove, Boomer Beach, Shell Beach and the Children’s Pool
• Historically designated sites such as the Casa de Mañana retirement community and Red Roost and Red Rest cottages
• Longtime structures such as the cobblestone wall at Whale View Point, beach access staircases and belvedere shade structures

Seonaid McArthur (second from right) fields questions about the planned La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District.
Seonaid McArthur (second from right) fields questions about the planned La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District at the La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting March 27 at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The proposed district’s historical period of significance begins in 1887, when La Jolla Park was subdivided, roads were built and residential and business lots were auctioned, according to the nomination. Additional significant developments include completion of the Children’s Pool in 1931 and construction of the La Jolla Adult Recreation Center in 1939.

The period of significance ends in 1940, when the last of many recreational buildings was constructed and community development began to focus on areas farther from the coast.

Designation as a historic district would recognize the coastal zone’s role in the growth and development of La Jolla. Such designation comes with limits on what can be built in the area, and any change to the area would have to be in line with the terms of the designation.

Benefits include “better access to grants and funding to help with restoration and maintenance of these sites,” according to proponents.

A hearing by the State Historical Resources Commission was originally scheduled for April but was pushed back to August, partly because of noticing issues.

When the proposal was being submitted, “any public or private entity affected by the [designation] has to be notified that the nomination has gone in, and if they want to contest or support it, they can,” McArthur said.

In this case, the property owners of a staircase believed to be on public land were not told of the nomination. Thus, there was a delay so they could be sufficiently notified.

Beach stairways were deemed crucial to the nomination because “they were built, some as early as 1909, to facilitate the public and tourist access to our coastline. They are also linkages to the economic growth of the community” by connecting the coast to the commercial district, McArthur said.

Also, the city of San Diego “asked for clarity as to which plant materials and landscape design features are required for resource management,” she said.

Though McArthur said a landscaping plan is not required for the nomination to proceed, she sees it as a benefit for future preservation. So a draft plan created earlier is being refined and will be submitted as part of the nomination process.

When the nomination is finalized, it will be posted online and accessible to the public, McArthur said.

Given that the nomination includes the Children’s Pool, where harbor seals go on land to rest and give birth, objections came from the Seal Conservancy, a La Jolla-based animal-rights group that monitors the area.

Seal Conservancy representative Adrian Kwiatkowski said the group is not “opposed to or in favor of” the nomination but has concerns about what the designation would mean for harbor seal and sea lion protections.

The Children’s Pool beach is closed to the public from Dec. 15 to May 15 annually to keep humans and seals separated during the animals’ pupping season. Point La Jolla and most of the adjacent Boomer Beach are closed to the public from May 1 to Oct. 31 during sea lion pupping season.

Kwiatkowski said there are “deficiencies in the application” that could cause it to change in coming months and that it would be premature for LJP&B to support the concept. “It would be prudent to wait,” he said.

He declined to give specific examples of such problems.

Despite the opposition, LJP&B members praised the proposal.

Phyllis Minick said the designation would be “a model for the world.”

Melinda Merryweather told McArthur, “You deserve so much applause and thanks for all the hard work.”

Tom Brady said the effort “is the right thing for the community of La Jolla. I’m much in favor of it, and the community should be, too.”

A motion to support the concept passed 12-0, with President Bob Evans customarily abstaining and trustee John Leek abstaining without comment.

Those involved in the nomination say their ultimate goal is for the historic district to qualify for the National Register of Historic Places. A hearing on that would take place after the state hearing.

Other LJP&B news

Public workshop: After an inaugural workshop took place last year to help LJP&B members learn how to lead projects in the community and what those projects should be, the board is considering having another workshop in May. But this time, members of the public also may attend. Anyone interested in assisting or leading a community project would have the opportunity to learn more about how to do that and partner with others with the same interests.

“I want to focus on new projects that can make a difference in the community for all the directors to get involved with,” Evans said. “We were thinking about reaching out to guests that want to be part of our projects going forward. You don’t have to be voting members to get involved. … We want to get the community involved here, not just directors.”

The workshop is to be facilitated by LJP&B Vice President Brenda Fake and would discuss projects members want to do, whether they are feasible, steps that need to be taken, how to work with appropriate San Diego city departments and more.

More details will be available in coming weeks. Those who want to attend can email

Weed-pulling party: Friends of Coast Walk Trail will hold its second “weed-pulling party” at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 29, at the Goldfish Point entrance to Coast Walk Trail. Fake, the Friends of Coast Walk Trail president, said that with recent rains, weeds are encroaching on some of the trail’s new plantings and need to be removed.

“We’re looking for 80 people or so to come help because we are deep in the weeds and we want help cleaning it up,” she said. “We have 300 new plants that went in and we are looking to get them established.”

Scripps Park restroom: Following reports of plumbing issues causing swampy conditions at the Scripps Park restroom facility that opened in January 2022, the city is looking to make repairs before the summer tourism season.

Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said the hope is to start the work in mid-April and finish before Memorial Day, in advance of the annual summer construction moratorium from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

If the work spills into the summer, LJP&B can offer its support for a waiver to the construction moratorium to allow the repairs to be completed.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Parks & Beaches board next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, April 24, at the La Jolla/Riford Library. Learn more at ◆