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People Or Seals? San Diego City Council Revisits Children’s Pool Controversy

Ordinance would declare Children’s Pool beach an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area

Above: Seals sun bathe at Children's Pool beach in La Jolla.

Aired 10/28/13 on KPBS News.

The San Diego City Council is set to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would prohibit people from entering Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla from Dec. 15 through May 15.

The San Diego City Council is set to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would prohibit people from entering Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla from Dec. 15 through May 15 and declare the shoreline an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area — a move that would require amendments to the Local Coastal Plan.

It's the latest proposal in the decades-long debate over who should rule the beach: people or seals.

Seal advocates gained a victory last month when the city’s planning commission voted 4-2 to recommend the city council adopt the ordinance and protect seals during pupping season.

Opponents of the plan say converting city parkland to a wildlife preserve would have long-term consequences for children’s pool and other nearby beaches that inhabit seals.

"This past pupping season there were 42 pups born on children’s pool beach itself; there were another 18 or so born on the next adjoining beach — that’s South Casa Beach; and for the first time this year, that we know of, there were six born on the next southerly beach at Wipe Out beach," said Ken Hunrichs, president of Friends of Children’s Pool, a group dedicated to the preservation of the beach for public access.

A rope is already up year-round to discourage people from entering the beach, but it leaves a three-foot opening and people have continued to harass the marine mammals.

In March, then-Mayor Bob Filner issued an emergency order to close the beach at night to stop animal abuse that was caught on videotape.

The Children's Pool was deeded to the city in 1931 as a safe area for kids to swim.

City News Service contributed to the information in this article.

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | October 28, 2013 at 12:26 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

I still believe this should be for people. What we have done is interfere with nature by creating an artificial, man-made seal sanctuary. We are left with a beautiful little cove that is dangerously contaminated from high levels of seal feces, a beautiful little beach that is infested with sunbathing seals, and nut-job extremists who make a big scene and intimidate people in order to try and "protect" seals. Not to mention, great white sharks eat seals, so we are undoubtedly attracting them with our seal pup farm. Give the children's pool back to the children.

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Avatar for user 'Thomack'

Thomack | October 28, 2013 at 1:29 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Seals pupped in the area before any man made structures were built there. The cove best serves the most people by being a seal sanctuary. The children don't need the pool, we have plenty of calm bays, pools, and swimming areas. Id bet that 9-10 kids would greatly prefer the seals to have the pool, Let's be honest, what kind of a fool really needs to harass the seals? Cant walk 50 feet to the left or right to the other points of ocean entrance? Back in the 90's I saw an idiot try chasing the seals only to get bit. Serves the fool right.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | October 28, 2013 at 1:45 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

The Children's Poll was given to the City to have a place that children could swim safely on the rocks in La Jolla. Perhaps we should let the City's Children vote to see if they would prefer to look at the harbor seals or swim with them?

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Avatar for user 'heteromeles'

heteromeles | October 28, 2013 at 2 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Personally, I'm glad the City Council is dealing with this, not us. They and their staffs are much more familiar with the situation and the ramifications (see Marine Mammal Protection Act, for example) than is someone like me who is just following the media reports.

The one thing I'm actually very concerned about is San Diego's culture of environmental harassment. It doesn't matter whether it's doctors and lawyers mountain-biking through vernal pools, or people harassing seals on camera, we live in a community where people who should know better deliberately become environmental vandals, causing long-term damage in the pursuit of momentary pleasure. When this scofflaw attitude is coupled with the city's general policy of enforcement without education, we get problems. San Diego is filled with rare and sensitive species, and I'd love to see more discussion of whether it's possible to use other means (environmental education, perhaps?) to help convince people to respect boundaries and give wild animals and plants a place to live too.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | October 28, 2013 at 2:52 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

The Children's Pool is a wonderful setting for people to observe, understand, and respect marine life safely from the cliffs above.

I don't ever recall going to the Children's Pool as a child, nor have I ever taken my kids, nor have I heard of anyone intentionally going there with their kids (except to see the seals). The water is too rough, rip currents too strong, and the beach is too small. La Jolla Shores is much more kid friendly.

Besides, the seals have become an icon and tourist attraction in La Jolla bringing in much needed business to local shops and restaurants.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | October 28, 2013 at 2:56 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Thomack - it is your opinion that the cove best serves the most people by being a seal sanctuary. Many people disagree. Also, you claim the area was a seal pup sanctuary before the artificial sanctuary even existed. Not true. Do you even know what area you are talking about? The cove is not the same place as the children's pool, which is a man made sanctuary created with the construction of the sea wall. It was always intended for children to have their own safe beach to swim in. Not for seals to excrete filth into the water day and night creating a stinking, disgusting, shark-attracting bowl of filth.

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | October 28, 2013 at 4:25 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Seals and humans are both mammals. We both have higher brain functions than most other species. So why people want to defend seals before humans will never cease to astound me. The beach is a man made, gifted from a family to children. If it is not to be used by people, it needs to be demolished. The seals will get along just fine with or without us. If people want to get close to them it really is not a big deal. The seal-tards should be rounded up and put through a wood chipper for wasting so much time and manpower. Please seal people leave the lifeguards and police alone. They have duties to humans not seals. Stop wasting our time in court with lawsuits that benefit not one human being. There are far more important people/things waiting for their day in court.

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Avatar for user 'Oceandefender'

Oceandefender | October 28, 2013 at 4:49 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

A History of Casa Beach

By virtue of its admission into the Union (i.e. upon becoming a State), California became the owner of all tidelands and all lands lying beneath inland navigable waters. These lands are held in the State’s sovereign capacity and are subject to the common law public trust.

The public trust doctrine restricts uses of sovereign lands to public trust purposes, such as navigation, fisheries, commerce, public access, water-oriented recreation, open space and environmental protection. In 1931, Governor Rolph approved Senate Bill 422, An Act Granting Certain Tide and Submerged Lands of the State of California to the City of San Diego. It has been repeatedly stated that there CPBwas a "trust" created that specifically required Casa Beach (also known as Children's Pool Beach) to be held in "trust” for the use of children. However, there is no specific trust that differs from general public trust lands. Any and all tidelands are held in "trust" throughout the State and if these lands are transferred—even to another public entity—they are transferred to be held in "trust".

This was a tidelands grant not unlike any other tidelands grant. Thus it is misleading to state that there is a "trust". In this case the City of San Diego received the tidelands grant to be used for specific purposes, including for children. This was amended In 2009, when the State of California passed SB428, a bill which gave the City of San Diego the authority to use Casa Beach as a "marine mammal park for the enjoyment and educational benefit of children."

The earliest mapmakers of La Jolla (1887) named two prominent geological features in the immediate vicinity of what is now called Casa Beach: Seal Rock and Seal Rock Point. Historically seals were present along the La Jolla coast, as may be assumed by the names given to the rocks off Casa Beach. However, due to extensive hunting, the population of harbor seals was decimated until none remained in the area. In 1931, Ellen Browning Scripps donated the funds to build the breakwater at Casa Beach. These tidelands were owned by the State of California.

Since the cessation of hunting, the population of harbor seals has increased. Although considerably less than historical levels, the current population of about 40,000 individuals off the coast of California is relatively stable. The population at Casa Beach is about 200 individual seals.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | October 28, 2013 at 5:51 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

I am with sdreefer on this. Humans and seals are fighting over the same piece of land. Humans are superior to animals, thus we win the battle. It really is that simple.

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Avatar for user 'PsychoBetty'

PsychoBetty | October 28, 2013 at 6:44 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

We need to co habitats with all of our ocean creatures. Each and everyone of them is needed to keep our largest and most important oxygen maker Eco system alive. We can share the beach with these mothers and their's the right thing to do.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | October 28, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

PsychoBetty I am not clear what you mean. By share the beach do you mean have psychotic eco-terrorists chase us away when we try to go to the beach? Or do you mean that humans can actually share the beach with the seals by making removing enough of them to make it safe for humans to use the beach?

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Avatar for user 'PoolLover'

PoolLover | October 28, 2013 at 7:44 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

I am a long time first hand observer of the beauty in the sea life of the C.P. (since the 40tys) until recently. Separating people from the beach has not improved it and emphasizing spectating over active participation is not good for anyone!
Before seals were having pups on the beach they seem to be doing fine and were doing their pupping somewhere else!

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Avatar for user 'rwm'

rwm | October 28, 2013 at 10:18 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

People come from all over the country and from all over the world to see the seals. It is a great tourist attraction and brings money to those poor living in la jolla. (tongue in cheek).

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | October 29, 2013 at 9:44 a.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

The seals have destroyed the whole area. The water is filthy. I can't even swim along the rocks outside the cove because the seals have spread north and taken over the entire area surrounding seal beach, the cove, and cave areas. I cannot swim there without a giant sea lion bellowing at me. They have ruined the area for humans.

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