The city of San Diego removed the rope barrier at the on Tuesday morning. The rope, which is up from Dec. 15 through May 15 each year, is intended to protect the California harbor seals that use the small, protected beach as a rookery during pupping season. However, the seals use the beach year round.
San Diego City Council District 1, which includes La Jolla, candidates Dennis Ridz (Republican) and Bryan Pease (Democrat) held a joint press conference Tuesday morning at the Children’s Pool to voice opposition of the rope’s removal. The two called for the rope to be up year round to keep visitors a “safe distance” from the seals.
“The seals are left vulnerable. People are getting way too close and chasing off the beach and this is exactly the situation council didn’t want and our current council member in district 1 is allowing to take place,” said Pease.
The rope has been a legal battle for several years now between animal rights activists and beach access advocates.
Pease explained that incumbent councilmember Sherri Ligthner voted in committee to keep the rope up before voting against it when it came to the full council. Pease, also an attorney for the La Jolla Friends of Seals and Animal Protection and Rescue League, sued the Planning Commission on this issue and the decision was revoked. The matter now goes to the state Coastal Commission in July, but the rope must come down in the meantime unless the mayor recognizes that a coastal emergency exists, Pease said. The Council declared the situation to be a coastal emergency in 2010, but the city attorney decided only the mayor can make that determination.
Ridz, chair of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board, he believes it is the board’s responsibility to serve as stewards of the land, air, sea and animals in this area.
“We have spent an exorbitant amount of time and money on trying to solve an issue that could have been negotiated a long time ago without a lawsuit,” said Ridz.
"District 1 needs a councilmember who protects the environment, natural resources, and the city's finances–unlike the incumbent, who was the only vote on the Council to vote to waste taxpayer money to dredge Children's Pool Beach and chase the seals away with barking dog noises," Pease said in an email to Patch. "Whether her replacement will be Democratic me or Republican Dennis Ridz will be up to the voters, but we both recognize the incumbent has been bad for district 1 and for San Diego."
La Jolla Patch contacted Lightner Tuesday afternoon. She said that, “Since the Coastal Commission has now asserted jurisdiction over permitting at the Children’s Pool, it makes no sense for the City of San Diego to insert itself back into the issue. We could end up wasting time and scarce tax dollars only to have the Coastal Commission decide to go a different route.”
“My goal at the Children’s Pool has always been the same – to try to keep the peace so that locals, visitors and the seals are able to safely enjoy the beach. That is why I found a private donor to fund a Ranger program to help educate and mediate.”
“Our message is simple,” Pease said at the Children’s Pool to a group of reporters and community members. “If you want this mismanaged situation where people are encouraged too get too close to resting seals – vote for Sherri Lightner. If you want a better managed situation and want a safe distance between people and seals, and to protect our natural resources – vote for Pease or vote for Ridz. We are both in favor of protecting this natural treasure in La Jolla.”
For more information on the Coastal Commission meeting time and location, visit its site at coastal.ca.gov/meetings/mtgdates.html