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Beach Access At Children’s Pool In La Jolla Goes Before Council

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

Photo by slworking / Flickr

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

The San Diego City Council is scheduled this afternoon to consider whether to prohibit people from venturing down to the beach at the Children's Pool during harbor seal pupping season.

The proposal 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.

Municipal and other laws against animal abuse have not prevented harassment of the seals, according to a city staff report to be delivered at Monday's meeting.

"These regulations and guidelines have not completely resolved inappropriate interactions between seals and citizens or interactions between citizens of different perspectives on the Children's Pool issues," the report states.

"Due to people continually flushing the seals and other documented inappropriate interactions between seals and people, closing the beach during pupping season is the next step in an adaptive management strategy for human/seal (pinniped) beach sharing."

The report calls the action "the minimum step" in preventing the harassment of seals.

The proposal to be heard Monday 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.

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, said Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who contends that the rope barrier has been an effective deterrent.

"The reality is that in recent years the harbor seal, sea lion and shorebird populations have dramatically exploded up and down the coastline," Lightner said.

"The city needs to follow suit of other California municipalities, and put into place a comprehensive Coastal Management Plan to deal with protection of public beach access as well as health, safety and environmental issues caused by the proliferation of marine mammals along San Diego's 23-mile shoreline."

She said she plans to ask for funding for such a plan in the next budget cycle.

The new restrictions, if approved, would not take effect until given the go-ahead by the California Coastal Commission -- a process that could take one year. The report from city staff says their counterparts at the commission support the seasonal beach closure.

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