While a year-round rope barrier at the in La Jolla was on Wednesday, the rope will not be re-installed any time soon.
According to Mayor Jerry Sanders office the permit will now go to the city’s Planning Commission for a vote too.
In the last few years, the rope has been up between Dec. 15 and May 15, when the seals are birthing and weaning their young. The barrier leaves a three- foot opening for people who are determined to go onto the beach.
Representatives of the mayor's office said the procedural next step is to send the issue back to the city's Planning Commission, which will consider a site development permit. Spokesman Darren Pudgil said that would happen “sometime before the end of the year.”
In an email Sea Shepherd volunteer Robb Mead said, “This is where the potential problem lies.”
“This is the same Commission that rejected the rope last year. Shortly after this rejection, (Animal Protection and Rescue League), myself and some other individuals became plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the SD Planning Commission's standing in making this decision. The challenge was successful and the judge rejected the Planning Commission's arguments. It was at this point when the CCC stepped in and said they would be handling this issue.”
He added that he was surprised to hear that it will now go back to the city’s planning commission.
“However, the difference this time is that it has full support of the CCC, Parks & Rec, and they lost the legal challenge…” he said.
At Wednesday's commission meeting in Chula Vista, attorney Bryan Pease, who represents supporters of the seals, said people who went down to the beach engaged in harmful interaction with the marine mammals.
“What happens when the rope barrier is not up is people just keep getting closer and closer. They want to get their picture taken, they want to try petting a seal,” Pease said.
The animal rights groups were opposed by beach access advocates, who want the beach returned to its original use, as a safe swimming area for children. The beach was deeded to the city in 1931, but the seals began to take it over in the early 1990s. The San Diego City Council voted to apply for a commission permit for the year-round rope in 2010.
After the vote City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, whose district includes La Jolla, said, “My concern with the rope barrier is it has become a flashpoint and that it is ultimately ineffective. The community is currently working on an alternative proposal. I hope the Coastal Commission will give it consideration as well as continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the rope barrier.”
An alternative proposal was presented by San Diego Lifeguard Union leader Ed Harris at several community meetings over the past few weeks and at the Coastal Commission meeting in Chula Vista Wednesday.
Harris, a longtime lifeguard in La Jolla, is proposing a plan to install a movable boulder barrier at Children’ Pool. The boulders would block off an estimated 25 percent of the beach during the summer months for the seals and an estimated 75 percent of the beach during pupping season (Dec. 15 to May 15). The boulders would be a buffer between humans and seals. At a July 5 CPA meeting, Harris said the boulders would provide a solution that is good for children, divers, fisherman and the seals.
“Don’t give us a rope barrier with no laws, because it will create more controversy,” said Harris. “It will empower these people and these people to police themselves and we have the Wild West down there.”
–City News Service contributed to this report.