S.D. Historical Resources Board joins local groups in supporting proposed La Jolla coastal historic district

Historical and modern photos of The Cave Store help demonstrate that many La Jolla features remain after more than 100 years.
Historical and modern photos of The Cave Store, presented to the San Diego Historical Resources Board, help demonstrate that many La Jolla features remain after more than 100 years.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Next stop for the nomination is the State Historical Resources Commission on Friday, Aug. 4.


An effort to establish a La Jolla coastline historic district is headed to a state hearing following a vote of support from the San Diego Historical Resources Board.

The issue is on the agenda for the California Office of Historic Preservation’s State Historical Resources Commission meeting on Friday, Aug. 4.

The proposal, led by Seonaid McArthur, chairwoman of the La Jolla Historical Society’s Landmark Committee, would create the La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District, including eight acres of coastal parkland between Torrey Pines Road and Coast Walk in the north and nearly the end of Coast Boulevard in the south. It would encompass places such as The Cove, Children’s Pool, Casa de Mañana retirement community and Red Roost and Red Rest cottages.

During the Historical Resources Board’s July 27 meeting, San Diego city staff member Kelley Stanco said the nomination would put the coastal district on the National Register of Historic Places “in the areas of community development, entertainment and recreation” and for its role in converting La Jolla “from a bohemian enclave into an international tourist destination.”

The area’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.

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

The area proposed for a La Jolla coastline historic district is based on an 1887 map.

Stanco said the nomination includes 35 resources such as buildings, streets, parks, trails and vegetation — 10 of which are already considered significant on San Diego’s local historic register.

The plant life includes “specific trees and landscape features that date to the period of significance and contribute to the recreation significance,” Stanco said.

Several members of the public stated their positions during the meeting. Many of those who supported the proposal were local preservationists or members of the La Jolla Historical Society.

“The coastal parkway overlooks a site of spectacular natural beauty that was often compared to the Italian Riviera,” said author Molly McClain, an authority on La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, the namesake of Scripps Park who contributed funds to establish some of the resources in the proposed historic district, including the Children’s Pool.

The tourism the area generated was “a vital engine for economic growth” at the turn of the century, said McClain, who added that La Jolla’s “nature-loving” culture was a precursor to the California lifestyle.

McArthur said “the district today continues to evoke a sense of the earliest era of La Jolla and encourages contemplation of nature with sweeping views of the crown-framed palm trees, belvederes and green lawn. … The district is directly associated with the planned design of 1887 La Jolla Park. The bluffs and beaches were set aside for public use and continue to attract large numbers of people.”

Lauren Lockhart, executive director of the Historical Society, called the area “a rare and exceptional stretch of coastline” and commended the “extensive and thoughtful research” that went into preparing the nomination.

Architectural historian Diane Kane, a La Jolla Community Planning Association trustee who also has been part of an effort to get the Children’s Pool listed on the National Register of Historic Places, praised its inclusion in the proposed historic district. Should the district as a whole be designated historic, the Children’s Pool would be designated with it.

“It is truly special and we are honored to have it in our community,” Kane said.

She noted that several local planning groups “are fully behind” the nomination. The Community Planning Association, La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee, La Jolla Shores Association and La Jolla Parks & Beaches board all have voted to support it.

Similarly, the Save Our Heritage Organisation is “in full support” of the district and recognizes La Jolla’s coast as “one of our most important cultural and historic areas [and] one of San Diego’s greatest assets,” said Executive Director Bruce Coons.

However, Scott Moomjian, an attorney representing animal-rights groups concerned about what the designation would mean for local marine mammal protections, suggested denial of the application. The Children’s Pool is closed to the public for five months out of the year for harbor seal pupping season; Point La Jolla is closed for six months of the year for sea lion pupping season, and a year-round closure is being proposed.

“The Seal Conservancy and other groups have submitted letters which question the impact and effects of the proposed district upon the coastal properties therein,” Moomjian said.

McArthur said during her presentation that the historic district plan “does not seek to impair the ability of government agencies to put in place the necessary management tools to protect coastal wildlife.”

Stanco added that the designation would not supersede any existing rules regarding animal protections.

Moomjian added that he wanted the board to get “clear and meaningful” responses to the “errors and deficiencies” in the nomination and the questions raised in opposition letters. He also questioned whether all affected property owners had been properly informed.

Many Historical Resources Board members stated their support for the nomination, though they said they wanted to make sure the report is complete and accurate.

Stanco said the state has a process for addressing the nomination and its accuracy.

Seonaid McArthur and Molly McClain address the San Diego Historical Resources Board.
Seonaid McArthur, chairwoman of the La Jolla Historical Society’s Landmark Committee, and author Molly McClain field questions from the San Diego Historical Resources Board about the proposed La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The board unanimously passed a motion to approve staff’s recommendation in support of the nomination, with the addition that staff consolidate the comments both for and against in a letter to the Office of Historic Preservation.

The State Historical Resources Commission’s Aug. 4 meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Sacramento, with streaming online. Learn more at

Benefits of historic designation include access to better and more grants if elements in the district need repair; code alternatives listed under the State Historical Building Code; protections under the California Environmental Quality Act and more.

But such designation comes with limits on what can be built, and any change to the area would have to be in line with the terms of the designation. ◆