Coastal Commission to rule on year-round seal rope July 11

Showdowns between advocates for a year-round rope barrier at Children's Pool and those who want humans to have full access are a common occurrence.

If you go:
What: Coastal Commission hearing on Children’s Pool rope
When: 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 11
Where: Chula Vista City hall, 276 4th ave., Chula Vista
Contact: or (415) 407-3211 (line active July 11 only)

By Pat Sherman

The unending dispute between advocates for seals and humans at Children’s Pool may be one step closer to a resolution after the issue goes before the California Coastal Commission this month.

During a July 11 hearing the commission is scheduled to decide whether to grant the City of San Diego a coastal development permit to install and maintain a year-round rope barrier at Children’s Pool, separating humans and seals.

The city currently maintains a rope across part of the beach during the seals’ pupping season, from mid- December to mid-May. Seal advocates wish to keep the barrier up year-round to comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act and ensure the safety of both seals and humans.

Others feel the entire beach should be kept open for children, as required by a 1931 Tideland Grant and requested by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, who paid for the iconic breakwater wall that keeps the beach sheltered from rough ocean waves. Advocates on both sides of the issue are asking the public to attend the Coastal Commission hearing in Chula Vista City Hall’s council chambers and weigh in before the commission makes its decision. A table near the door will contain speaker slips that those wishing to address the commission must fill out upon their arrival.

The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. and typically lasts until at least 5:30 p.m. Coastal Commission Analyst Kanani Brown said she is not certain when the item (10D) will be heard, though she said it would likely consume the majority of the day’s agenda.

“The staff will give its presentation with a staff recommendation to the commission and then the commissioners can discuss (the item),” Brown said. “Usually, if they approve it, it’s done with certain special permit conditions. The city would have to meet all of those conditions before the permit is is- sued. Depending on how motivated the applicant is, that could take a long time or be very brief.”

The permit conditions include: lim- iting the permit term to three years (at the expiration of which the city must ap- ply for an amendment or new coastal devel- opment permit); a liability waiver indemni- fying the Coastal Commission against damages; securing all required local permits; implementation of a monitoring program with annual reports on beach use by seals and the efficacy of the rope; and a maximum two signs atop the rope support posts, not to exceed eight feet in height.

Though the commissioners typically make a decision during the meeting, they could postpone their deci- sion if they feel they need more information, Brown said. The commission must make a decision by Sept. 10, which is 270 days after the city submitted all the required documentation on the case.

John Leek, secretary of the Friends of the Children’s Pool, said that though the city may obtain the Costal Commission’s ap- proval, it must also obtain a site development permit for the rope through its own “coastal land use procedures.”

“The La Jolla Community Planning Association has reflected the feelings of La Jollans in rejecting every rope barrier permit application for four years,” Leek stated in an e-mail to the La Jolla Light. “This is going to cost the city a whole lot of trouble and money for nothing because the city has a working, shared-use policy. Everybody’s willing to share with the seals. The seals share very nicely. It’s only certain people who won’t share.”

Leek said a ranger the city hired to moni- tor Children’s Pool should be sufficient to police the area and assure people aren’t straying too close to the seals. A letter to Kanani Brown from Dan Daneri of the city’s Park and Recreation Department dated May 22 listed some ongoing concerns with the barrier, noting that the city has “not completed any technical studies performed on the effectiveness of the rope.

“The rope is a visual deterrence only,” Daneri wrote, in part. “It is clear that individu- als are not prohibited from crossing the rope. The only additional assistance to ensure that people adhere to standing behind the rope and not get- ting too close to the seals is the city park ranger who is assigned to the Children’s Pool … Satur- day through Wednesday (11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.). The ranger can issue citations for mis- demeanor violations and infractions of the city municipal code, but has no jurisdiction as to enforcing any federal Marine Mammal Protection Act laws. Neither federal nor city law specifies what a ‘safe’ distance is to prevent harassment and/ or flushing.”

During high tide, Daneri noted, seals may be forced to cross over to the side of the rope designated for humans. “Visitors may need to wait until the tide recedes far enough … before going onto the beach,” he stated.

Daneri said many visitors remain “confused as to the purpose of the rope.”

A phone line will be established the day of the hearing, for those who wish to speak with a commission staffer to get directions, find out when the issue may come up for discussion or to answer other questions.

The number is (415) 407-3211. The meeting also will be broadcast online. It can be viewed by visiting

Related posts:

  1. Children’s Pool rope barrier goes up, but only for pupping season
  2. Children’s Pool gets a cross of sea grass
  3. Appeal of year-round rope barrier at Children’s Pool is Dec. 9
  4. Seal supporters protest shared use at pool
  5. City Council votes 6-0 to ban dogs at Children’s Pool

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Jun 26, 2012. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News, Seal Watch. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

8 Comments for “Coastal Commission to rule on year-round seal rope July 11”

  1. citizen

    First, thank you La Jolla Light for writing this well balanced article… many from the past have been skewed in their description of this situation. this one is much more even.
    Secondly, I hope the commission states clearly what the verbiage on the signs will be IF this ridiculous rope ends up happening.
    Third… Perhaps someone should recommend that the supposed "seal protection" groups raise enough money and jump through the hoops needed to build THEIR OWN haul out site for their precious seals, much like Ellen Browning Scripps did so long ago for our community. But i'm gonna guess that's too much for them to comprehend and they'd prefer to continue harassing our community.

  2. bigdipper

    Why is the lead-in always "humans vs. seals". We are gong to have seals no matter what. The issue is contnued shared use, or exclusion of citizens. If the state rules we can't share as we have done for 15 years, but access should be curtailed to a created habitat made by an artificial structure, then every boat pier in Califrornia becomes a protected habitat when a sea lion takes a fancy to it. A year round unenforceable rope would just be a bigger magnet for contention than the 5 month rope is now.

  3. cyberKICK

    If you have to wait to low tide in order to use the beach because it is crowded with seals, then the seals are restricting access to the water.

    "The rope is a visual deterrence only,” Daneri wrote, in part. “It is clear that individuals are not prohibited from crossing the rope. The only additional assistance to ensure that people adhere to standing behind the rope and not getting too close to the seals is the city park ranger who is assigned to the Children’s Pool … Saturday through Wednesday (11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.). "

    If the rope is only a visual guideline, and standing behind it is not necessary, why is additional assistance needed to make sure everybody is behind the rope? Which is it? Can you cross it or not?

  4. Pat Sherman

    You are not supposed to cross the rope. But some people do so and challenge the barrier. Some tourists may not understand why it's there and cross the rope. That's one of the reasons the city spent money for a park ranger to patrol Children's Pool.
    –Pat Sherman

    • cyberKICK

      Then why does he say "It is clear that individuals are not prohibited from crossing the rope."? You say you are not supposed to cross the rope, yet Daneri wrote you can. Also, has anybody paid any fines for crossing the rope?

    • bigdipper

      The ranger does not tell tourists why the rope is there nor does he stop anybody from crossing the rope. If they ask he will tell the truth, It is a suggested distance. If people actually crowd seals until they are clearly unhappy the ranger will ask people to go behind the rope, but if they don't there is nothing he can do about it.

  5. Pat Sherman

    Note/Update: Though Coastal Commission staff are recommending the commission approve the year-round rope, commissioners still must rule on the issue July 11 after hearing public testimony.
    –Pat Sherman

  6. Pat Sherman

    I didn't state that crossing the rope barrier was illegal or would result in a citation. It was put up by the city to prevent people from wandering too close to the seals, so that they know which area of the beach is intended for seals only. It is a guideline. A representative from the local lifeguards' union has proposed a compromise barrier concept that seems to be gaining some traction in the community. See next week's edition of the Light for details on that.

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