Children’s Pool to remain closed during seal pupping season

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego City Council voted 6-3 Monday to prohibit
people from venturing down to the beach at the Children's Pool during harbor
seal pupping season.

The new regulation, if given final approval by the California Coastal
Commission, would be far more restrictive than the current rope barrier, which
is designed to discourage beachgoers from disturbing marine mammals at the
scenic La Jolla facility.

The Children's Pool was deeded to the city in the 1930s to be a safe
swimming spot for youngsters. However, the seals began to take over the area in
the 1990s, creating a standoff between beach access advocates and supporters of
animal rights.

Clashes between the two sides have been common, and backers of the seals
contend the animals have been abused at times. Morris Dye, of the city's
Development Services Department, told the council members that this is the next
step in protecting the seals as a coastal resource.

The new regulation would bar people from using the Children's Pool from
Dec. 15 to May 15 each year, when the seals are giving birth and weaning their
young. Dye said staff plans to install a chain across the stairway to the
beach.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald said the Children's Pool is no longer just an
issue of concern to residents of La Jolla.

“It has become abundantly clear over the years this is a regional
issue,” Emerald said. “This tiny piece of beach with these harbor seals has
become a regional treasure, and based upon some testimony from a gentleman who
was here earlier, talking about how he and his wife vacationed here, it's
apparently become a national treasure, as well.”

Councilmen Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman voted to oppose the plan, which
was bitterly fought by Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who represents La Jolla.
She cast the third dissenting vote.

“I'm concerned that we are drawing a line in the sand we do not need,”
Lightner said. “I shudder to think about the chilling precedent the
suggested action sets and the effect it will have on public, physical access
guaranteed by the Coastal Act.”

The Coastal Act was passed by the state Legislature in 1976 to require
beach access in land use decisions.

Lightner's motion to reject the staff recommendation was voted down, and
several amendments she offered were not accepted.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association voted 9-6-1 at a meeting in
January to reject the proposed ban. Area residents have never supported a
seasonal beach closure, Lightner said.

Several members of the audience said the seal population is exploding,
and that they are not a threatened or endangered species. Supporters of the
closure, however, said harbor seals require a sandy beach during pupping
season, and cannot make use of nearby rocks like sea lions can.

Dye said the Coastal Commission could take up the issue at a meeting in
August. Commission staff supports the seasonal beach closure, he said.

If approved by the commission at that time, the chain would be installed
in time for the Dec. 15 closure, according to Dye.

The meeting attracted a capacity audience in the Council Chamber. One
woman was ejected by police, on the orders of Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, for
disrupting the proceedings.

Categories: KUSI