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City Council Affirms Decision To Close Children's Pool In La Jolla For Seal Pups

A curious harbor seal pokes its head out from the among the kelp beds.
Photo by Mike Baird
A curious harbor seal pokes its head out from the among the kelp beds.

Without comment, the San Diego City Council on Monday voted 5-3 to affirm a previous decision to close the Children's Pool in La Jolla to people during harbor seal pupping season, which runs from Dec. 15 to May 15 each year.

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. Seals moved into the area in the 1990s and have become the focus of a dispute between animal-rights supporters and beach-access advocates.


If the coastal commission approves, the new regulation will bar people from using the Children's Pool during seal breeding season. The city plans to install a chain across the stairway to the beach.

Council members Mark Kersey, Sherri Lightner and Scott Sherman cast the dissenting ballots. Lightner, who represents the area, fought the closure when it was first approved last month.

Opponents contend 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.

City staff expects the coastal commission to take up the issue at a meeting in August. Commission staff supports the seasonal beach closure.

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


Separately, the council members gave unanimous final approval to regulations that allow food trucks to operate legally throughout San Diego, and to rescind an increase in a fee on construction projects that helps fund affordable housing projects.

The trucks will be allowed to operate without a permit in industrial, commercial and high-density residential areas. The proposal generally prohibits them from low-density residential neighborhoods, parts of the restaurant-heavy Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy, streets near the beach and roadways close to the city's three major universities unless they obtain special events permits.

The regulations also set hours they can operate when they are 300 feet or closer to a residence. Not included is a minimum distance the trucks can be from a brick-and-mortar restaurant, because such a restriction would not be consistent with state law.

On the affordable housing fee, the council had voted 5-4 last fall to restore the levy to 1.5 percent of a building project's total cost, after it was halved in 1996.

However, opponents contended it would harm San Diego's business climate without doing much good for affordable housing. They collected more than enough signatures to qualify a referendum for the ballot, forcing the council to choose between a repeal or placing the issue to a public vote.

Business leaders, led by former Mayor Jerry Sanders, who now leads the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, promised at a previous meeting to help craft a plan to tackle the lack of low-cost housing in the city.