SAN DIEGO — A proposal to prohibit people from going onto the beach at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla during harbor seal pupping season was postponed Tuesday by the San Diego City Council.
The proposed beach ban would have been in effect from Dec. 15 to May 15, when the seals are birthing and weaning their young. According to city documents, the move is the next step in protecting the seals because people are continuing to harass them.
Before the City Council had a chance to consider the proposal, however, city staff said an issue with the California Coastal Commission had come up and asked for a postponement. It could be January before the plan goes back to the council.
The city has already erected a rope that’s now up year-round to discourage people from going down to the beach, but it leaves a three-foot opening to allow access.
The city documents say the rope has “not completely resolved inappropriate interactions between seals and citizens,” and people are continually flushing the seals into the water.
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.
Besides the rope, the city has installed signs asking people to leave the seals alone.
The presence of the marine mammals has been a lightning rod in the area for two decades, pitting beach access advocates against those who support animal rights. The Children’s Pool was deeded to the city in 1931 as a safe area for kids to swim.
City staff was going to ask the council to designate the beach as an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, a regulatory step needed to close the beach to people.
The documents say protection of fragile coastal resources trumps public beach access in state law, and the California Coastal Commission staff supports the proposed closure, but not necessarily the habitat area designation.
Morris Dye of the Development Services Department told City News Service that the Coastal Commission now suggests the city use a provision of the Coastal Act on the protection of marine resources as the regulatory mechanism to close the beach.
That, however, will require new documents to be drawn up and approval from the city’s Planning Commission before the item gets back to the City Council, he said.