La Jolla coastal district gets state nod for nomination for National Register of Historic Places

An overview of part of the La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District
An overview of part of the La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District is presented to the California State Historical Resources Commission.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

California’s State Historical Resources Commission unanimously supports a local proposal to list eight acres of coastal parkland as a historic district and finds it eligible for nomination to the National Register.


After five years of effort, the newly designated La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District is being nominated for the National Register of Historic Places following a vote of support Aug. 4 from the California State Historical Resources Commission.

Meeting in Sacramento, commissioners unanimously supported a proposal to list as a historic district 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.

The La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District, proposed by locals led by Seonaid McArthur, chairwoman of the La Jolla Historical Society’s Landmark Committee, encompasses places such as The Cove, Children’s Pool, Casa de Mañana retirement community and Red Roost and Red Rest cottages.

The area is based on an 1887 map of what was called La Jolla Park.

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

Commission staff said 36 letters of support were submitted. While many speakers at the meeting favored the designation, the issue for opponents was the potential impact on local marine life and their existing protections. The Children’s Pool is closed to the public for five months every year for harbor seal pupping season. Point La Jolla is closed for six months annually for sea lion pupping season, and a year-round closure is being proposed. Both of those sites are included in the nomination.

One of the speakers supporting the nomination was 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 landmarks in the proposed historic district, including the Children’s Pool.

McClain told the commission that La Jolla’s founders “prioritized direct access to nature and ensured that La Jolla’s coastline would be preserved for public use. Health-seeking and nature-loving became part of a way of life that we now call the California lifestyle.”

Belvederes (shade structures) were established in the early 1900s along the La Jolla coast.
Belvederes (shade structures) were established in the early 1900s along the La Jolla coast.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

McArthur added that “developers prioritized access to the sea. Almost the whole coastline of the La Jolla Park subdivision is set back by the presence of Coast Boulevard and the [Coast Walk] Trail … where hotels, houses and shops would be built.”

From the earliest development of La Jolla, streets were oriented to “take visitors from San Diego to the park,” which continues today, McArthur said.

Other supporters included La Jolla Community Planning Association trustee Diane Kane, who has been working to have the Children’s Pool listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“[McArthur and McClain] did impeccable research and carried forward my research on the Children’s Pool, expanding it to a much fuller district encompassing a much larger section of La Jolla’s early history,” Kane said.

Some speakers cited inconsistencies with maps, concerns about including Point La Jolla in the district given the planned year-round closure, and a need for more consideration of the local seal and sea lion populations.

Sierra Club Seal Society Chairwoman Robyn Davidoff spoke about the impact the designation may have on the pinnipeds. “Nominating beaches and coastlines where marine mammals live seems different from nominating a building or railroad and needs additional consideration,” she said.

Davidoff said the main concern is making sure marine mammal birthing areas would continue to be protected under the historic district, though she said the Sierra Club “is satisfied with the reassurances given that historic designation of the coastline will not interfere with the wildlife habitat.”

Scott Moomjian, an attorney representing animal-rights groups, said there were “deficiencies” with the nomination, including questions of whether all affected property owners were notified and concerns about the analysis of some of the features.

Commission historian Amy Crain said “the full complement of owners were appropriately notified.”

After minimal discussion, the board approved a motion to “find the La Jolla Park Coastal Historic District eligible for listing in the National Register [of Historic Places] … and that the nomination be forwarded to the keeper of the National Register.”

Images of La Jolla's Goldfish Point and sea caves show how little they've changed in 130 years.
(Screenshot by Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

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.

Benefits of historic designation include access to better and more grants if repairs are needed in the district, code alternatives listed under the State Historical Building Code, protections under the California Environmental Quality Act and more.

The designation also 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.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association, La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee, La Jolla Shores Association and La Jolla Parks & Beaches board all have voted to support the historic district. The San Diego Historical Resources Board voted to support it July 27.

The San Diego-based Save Our Heritage Organisation also has stated its support for the designation. ◆