La Jolla Coast Area Under Consideration for a Historic District Classification


Mehri Sadri

A sector of the La Jolla coastline is being considered for designation as a historic district, with a  final decision possibly taking place in the following months. 

A historic district is defined under City Municipal Code as a partitioned section of land distinguished by its unique landform or architectural appeal that holds great historical and cultural significance. Some well-known historic districts within the county include Balboa and Old Town San Diego State Historic Parks. 

The historic district nomination form states that it would encompass “public access to some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in California.” More specifically, if approved, the La Jolla historic district would include scenic areas such as Shell and Boomer beaches, long-standing structures of cobblestone and beach access staircases, historically significant sites such as Casa de Mañana retirement community, Red Roost and Red Rest cottages, as well as acres of coastal parkland surrounding The Village.

The State Historical Resources Commission may decide on this classification in the following months; discussion of the matter is tentatively scheduled to occur during an April 21 board meeting. The SHRC is a nine-member state review board appointed by the governor responsible for the identification and preservation of California’s cultural heritage. If this area receives designation construction and other activities would be limited to best protect the land. 

Though set to be discussed soon, the efforts to propose such an appellation have been years in the making. The La Jolla Historical Society, a nonprofit organization, arranged the nomination. More specifically, a team within this committee known as the La Jolla Historical Society Landmark Committee — led by committee Chairwoman Seonaid McArthur — dedicated years toward granting this area a historic designation.

To prepare the nomination, McArthur’s team closely studied the history and geography of the La Jolla area, using technology such as drones to get photos of the beaches and structures. 

According to McArthur, La Jolla’s development can be traced back to 1887 with the initial development of La Jolla’s roads and property lots. This development period ended around 1940, when construction of public facilities and architecture began to span farther away from the coast. Furthermore, McArthur also explained that the natural beauty of this San Diego beach “led to the construction of small cottages, bungalows and hotels and was the center of entertainment and leisure activities.” The nomination form states that “early architecture typifies the beach bungalow and one of the earliest Spanish Revival hotels in Southern California.” Some of the other significant nature incorporated in this district includes “part of Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve … Scripps Park includes heritage plantings of trees, shrubs and grass.”

McArthur acknowledged how, especially now, “people [are starting to realize] how important it [is] to have public space in the midst of industry so people [can] breathe and enjoy nature and get some exercise. Our town stretches the whole coastal zone because that is what our founders set aside for us,” thus leading to the specific, beachy areas nominated for the district selection. 

Acknowledging the beauty of the La Jolla coastlines, especially as a way to get away from the turbulence of everyday life, this district distinction would provide a clear modality to protect such valuable scenery.

If approved in April, the committee’s next objective will be to qualify for The National Register of Historic Places, which is a collection of historic districts federally recognized for their artistic and historical significance. 

Photo by Alexandra Mirman for The UCSD Guardian