SAN DIEGO — The California Coastal Commission unanimously voted this week to approve a year-round closure of Point La Jolla to help protect both sea lions and people visiting the area.

“A lot of people were getting very close to the animals,” said Carol Toye with the Sierra Club Seal Society. “(This is concerning) because this area is a breeding zone.”

The City of San Diego requested a permit for the existing seasonal closure in the area to extend all year long. The Coastal Commission’s approved the new permit for seven years, but the final step before it goes into effect will be a vote by San Diego City Council on Sept. 18.

Local stakeholders like the Sierra Club Seal Society have pushed to protect 150 yards of Point La Jolla and the bluffs at Boomer Beach for years. Under the approved permit, the highly popular La Jolla Cove and Boomer Beach would remain unaffected.

“We do know that this area is very well known for body surfing and spearfishing, so that’s why there was a corridor that was kept open for ocean access,” said Toye.

In 2021, an emergency temporary closure was implemented by the city, later becoming the seasonal closure between May 1 and Oct. 31. The closure coincides with the annual mating season for seals and sea lions who reside along La Jolla’s coast.

During this part of the year, sea lions and seals have been known to startle beachgoers for engaging in seemingly “aggressive” behavior, with multiple incidents of male sea lions chasing each other through crowds in an attempt to assert dominance to appeal to potential mates.

Incidents like this put both beachgoers and the mammals at risk. “It was just not possible to keep people at safe distances when they can walk into these areas,” Toye said.

The commission’s approval of the request for an extended closure came with conditions for posting additional signage around Point La Jolla with stronger language on it to explain the penalties for violating the closure as a means of keeping people out of the area. They also asked for a plan to monitor the area year-round.