Walkway improvements, as originally proposed, were to include vastly improved pedestrian flow along Coast Walk, double-seat walls, shade trees, repairs to the existing gazebo, the addition of interpretive/historical/educational signage, use of native plants on the bluffs to control erosion and restricting vendor “free speech” tables to a single location.
But a number of problems, many dealing with the walkway's historicity as well as permitting issues, are seriously threatening to derail the project altogether.
Members from La Jolla Parks and Recreation, Inc. including Phyllis Minick, who has been spearheading the walkway improvement project, met in April with city representatives from the Public Works Department to discuss recent developments in the walkway's restoration. That project was initiated seven years ago by the Minicks and landscape architect Jim Neri to beautify the area in the vicinity of the (now new) lifeguard tower, and to improve access and circulation at the site.
The project was transferred to the City's Public Works Department in 2016 for design and construction. But La Jollans have received distressing news: The city said the low wall overlooking the Pool on the south and east is "historic” and may be eligible to be designated as a national historic resource, meaning it has to meet the standards of the Department of Interior. Therefore, its preservation must be safeguarded and mitigated during construction.
The city also informed community planners that “a guardrail must be constructed to a height of 42 inches from the ground at different locations along that wall. The City is concerned about the structural integrity of the wall, and is proceeding with structural testing on sections of it.”
The result is the project now would require some sort of safety barrier above the wall, assuming that could be accomplished given the structural and historic concerns governing it.
“No one at this meeting thought that any sort of visual obstruction on top, or in the vicinity of the wall, especially a screen which looks like a prison barrier, would be aesthetically acceptable,” said LJPB in a statement. “The cost for greater public safety is, in our collective view, too destructive of the ambiance of the location.”
In an interview with the La Jolla Village News, Minick said she was disappointed by recent developments, but not disheartened.
“Children's Pool has always been a place of wonderful tranquility,” said Minick. “It was designated, in perpetuity, to be taken care of, cleaned and repairs made where necessary to the property. Now the project has come to a screeching halt because of these engineering and historical issues with the low wall.”
Minick added there's been some confusion — and disagreement — over whether the wall's historicity would prevent it from being altered. And, she noted park planners have learned repairing the wall would be expensive.
“All that being said, they (city) felt that the sidewalk probably could not be uprooted, destroyed and rebuilt,” Minick noted, adding, “We suggested, at least get rid of the planters with plum plants that have thorns which is a big obstacle to pedestrians.”
Minick said the city took community park planners' recommendations and suggestions to heart, noting they would return, likely at LJPB's monthly meeting in July, to discuss their perspective on resolving the problematic situation.
But construction at Children's Pool is tricky, given the city's summer construction moratorium and the pool is being closed from Dec. 15 to May 15 each year for harbor seal pupping season.
“If they (city) decide to do anything (walkway improvements) it wouldn't be until a year from (this) June,” Minick said.
In a report recently released to the public, the conclusion is drawn that “any form of improvements at the Children's Pool beyond superficial ones appear to be dead because of the time and cost associated with addressing these (historic and engineering) impacts,” while adding, “Discussion turned to alternative plans that would achieve the objective of pedestrian safety and walkway beautification without the cost- and time-prohibitive triggers now reported, amenities including improvements to site vegetation, alleviating pedestrian congestion points by removing other vegetation and replacing it with paving, and the addition of a bicycle rack.”