The Children’s Pool, or the “Casa” as locals have called it, is a tiny cove protected by a concrete breakwater.
A sea wall was built in 1931. It protected the beach from waves making it a favorite spot for divers and swimmers. Local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps paid for the sea wall project in order to create a Children's Pool, a place where children could play and swim. Ms.Scripps donated the completed project to the City of San Diego.
What became a safe-haven for children also became a natural attraction to Harbor seals and sea lions. Seals come here to rest, sunbathe and even have pups, as the sand has filled in most of the area inside the wall. Now visitors can enjoy the added bonus of an ongoing marine mammal show courtesy of the seals that play in and around the shore or at Seal Rock.
Seal pup births were observed at Children's Pool for the first time in 1999. As of late 2009 about 200 harbor seals use the beach regularly. The seals have become a popular tourist attraction. The seal-watching feature attracts over 80,000 annual visitors.
A controversy developed over the purpose of the beach. Some wanted it to be treated as a marine mammal sanctuary, while others wanted to preserve it for recreational swimming. Currently swimming is allowed but not recommended due to the high bacterial count caused by "a seal excrement overload".
Various lawsuits, appeals, and state laws have been filed over these issues.
The city of San Diego put up a rope barrier to discourage people from approaching the marine mammals during the pupping season, from mid-December to mid-May, so that pregnant seals can rest and give birth on the beach without humans coming too close and frightening them. Some seals on the beach are acclimated to people and may play with swimmers and divers. However, the city lifeguard service warns that "Like all wild animals, seals and sea lions are unpredictable and can become aggressive quickly. They have sharp teeth and may bite"
Please note that to local San Diegan's this is a very emotional issue. The San Diego Police Department says that police have responded to "numerous calls for service at Children's Pool involving alleged incidents of threatened assault and intimidation" between seal advocates, swimmers and divers, and that in some cases citations have been issued or people taken into custody. A La Jolla man was indicted for sending e-mailed death threats to a seal advocate and to the Animal Protection and Rescue League.
Despite its controversy, Children’s Pool is still a beautiful area. The seals inhabit the beach year-round. You can walk out on the sea wall where you are surrounded by the ocean to watch the seals or to observe the tide pools that teem with interesting sea creatures.
The waves crash into the wall where you can experience all the sights, sounds, and the smell of the fresh ocean breeze. Children's Pool boasts some of the most strikingly beautiful sunsets you'll ever see. Couples find it romantic to watch the sun set in the evening as it gradually creates bursts of infinite color as it slowly disappears beyond the ocean horizon.