Some community planners ready to cede fight over access to La Jolla Children’s Pool

Chris Zirkle with the San Diego Park and Recreation Department’s Open Space Division said seal haul-out sites in California are commonly designated as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas to protect the marine mammals. The Children’s Pool is considered a seal rookery (or birthing place), and even more sensitive, he said.

By Pat Sherman

Though the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) has repeatedly voiced its opposition to restricting human access at Children’s Pool beach (aka Casa Beach), several members at the group’s May 2 meeting said they are ready to give up the fight and allow the city to designate the beach exclusively for seals.

“I think it’s a fait accompli,” said LJCPA trustee Ray Weiss of the city’s plan to close the beach day and night during the seals’ winter pupping season — and possibly year-round.

Weiss noted both federal and state laws that support Mayor Bob Filner’s plan to close the beach Dec. 15-May 15, and to dissuade access by installing a rope barrier across the beach during summer (like that currently in place during winter months).

La Jollan Carol Archibald argues that the city should declare Children’s Pool beach an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, which she said is consistent with the California Coastal Act.

The city has proposed amending the La Jolla Community Plan and accompanying Local Coastal Program to establish an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) at Children’s Pool beach. The amendment would prohibit access to the ESHA during the seals’ pupping season. The city has requested that the California Coastal Commission issue a coastal development permit for the installation of closure signs and a chain barrier at the bottom of the cement staircase leading to the beach.

Chris Zirkle, a deputy manager with the San Diego Park and Recreation Department’s Open Space Division, said an ESHA is any area lying within California’s coastal zone containing “especially rare or valuable resources” that can be “easily disturbed or degraded by human activities.”

The city has issued a draft negative declaration on the project, a document basically stating that the closure will have no significant impact on the environment.

During the meeting LJCPA trustees voted 8-5-1 to reject the negative declaration and request the city produce a full environmental impact report (EIR) on its proposed beach closure.

Visually frustrated, LJCPA Vice-chair Joe LaCava explained his decision to support the negative declaration and not request an EIR. “I’m tired of this conversation,” LaCava said. “The dominoes have been falling for quite some time. … It’s time for us to move on; we fought a good fight.”

Though LaCava said he believes “the city didn’t step up and do its job” by taking steps to remove the seals when the mammals started to colonize the beach in the 1990s, he said seals have nevertheless taken over. “They own it,” LaCava said. “We’re never going to get that (beach) cleaned up.”

City of San Diego project manager Jihad Sleiman said it is not likely the city will alter the color scheme of the new Children’s Pool lifeguard tower, despite concerns from many at the May 2 LJCPA meeting that the current colors are different than those originally presented to the community.

LaCava said the LJCPA should instead urge the city to protect the rest of La Jolla’s beaches from colonization through further amendments to the community plan.

“I would hope the folks that are in support of the rookery and the environmentally sensitive habitat area … for the Children’s Pool would join us and encourage the city to … promise they will not allow any colonization to happen at South Casa, the Cove, La Jolla Shores or anywhere else,” LaCava said, drawing applause from seal advocates who came to speak in favor of the beach closure.

“Enough is enough,” LaCava said. “I appreciate the people that have been fighting for years and years (to keep the beach open to people), but I want you to go do something else. There are other things to be saved in the world.”

Trustee Fran Zimmerman concurred with LaCava, decrying the “vitriol and viciousness” the issue has spawned through the years.

“This is not on the table, but I certainly agree that we need to start to come together to deal with some of the real issues,” she said. Weiss noted legislation passed in 2009 allowing the San Diego City Council to establish Children’s Pool beach exclusively for use as a marine mammal sanctuary. “I think the people in this room, as passionate as they are about the subject, ought to be realistic about that,” Weiss said.

However, trustee David Little urged his board colleagues not to cede their fight just yet, and protect the community plan.

Karen Visin, owner of a WindanSea property on which two arguably historic cottages are located, wants to demolish the structures to build duplexes. Visin said her neighbors are arguing for the cottages’ historicity when she suspects they are actually concerned about a potential loss of views. LJCPA Chair Tony Crisafi looks on.

“The only thing we have is our laws and our rules,” Little said. “Ray is probably right — we’re going to have seals forever, but we shouldn’t change our community plan.”

Trustee Janie Emerson said she is concerned that altering the community plan via a “quick decision” would “set a huge precedent.” “For me, that issue transcends the seals,” she said.

Tom Brady said the community has suggested other changes to the planning document that the city has been reluctant to adopt.

“The work and effort that have gone into it by our entire community groups is just so considerable to try and change it in a vote,” Brady said. “I think this is a mistake.”

Discussion of whether to reject amendments to the La Jolla Community Plan and Local Coastal Program was tabled until the June LJCPA meeting to provide more time for discussion.

Zirkle said the city would next seek a recommendation from the Planning Commission for the proposed amendments, which must ultimately be approved by the California Coastal Commission, though he said they are “consistent with the Coastal Act.”

In other LJCPA news

Costebelle appeal ratified: Trustees voted to approve an appeal filed by LJCPA President Tony Crisafi of the city’s decision to exempt a long-stalled residential development at 7940 Costebelle Way in La Jolla Shores from further environmental review. The property owner is seeking to add a third story that would include an art studio, bedroom, living room and kitchen.

Demo permit appealed: The LJCPA also voted to appeal the city’s decision to approve an coastal development permit for the demolition of two Tudor Revival-style cottages on Playa Del Sur in WindanSea.

The La Jolla Historical Society has argued that the cottages are historic, while the city’s Historical Resources Board has said there have been too many changes to the cottages over the years, which constitute a “loss of integrity” that diminished their historic value.

Mike Costello said the Development Permit Review (DPR) committee has requested that the authors of “two conflicting historic reports” return to the DPR to argue their points before that committee makes a recommendation.

Tim Lucas questioned whether the city should invest millions in a new lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool beach when it is concurrently working to close that beach to protect the seals. Trusteen Nancy Manno makes sure speakers don't excede their time.

During the meeting the property owner, Karen Visin, said the city denied the historic designation in 2010, and that she believes the time to appeal that decision and the environmental determination has passed.

Children’s Pool Lifeguard Tower: The city also presented final designs for the new $3.2 million lifeguard tower at Children’s Pool beach to the LJCPA.

City of San Diego project manager Jihad Sleiman said residents in the immediate vicinity of the project will be notified of the project start date, though the city is scheduled to demolish the existing, condemned lifeguard tower next month.

Former LJCPA trustee Tim Lucas questioned whether the city should invest more money to build the tower, given that it plans to close Children’s Pool beach.

“I think the city needs to maybe put the breaks on this for a couple months and try to figure out which direction this beach is going in,” Lucas said. “It’s millions of dollars at stake here.”

However, John Leek said the new tower is needed because lifeguards survey a total of five beaches from it, and also offer paramedic services to pedestrians along Coast Boulevard.

Related posts:

  1. Coastal Commission to rule on year-round seal rope July 11
  2. Mayor shares details of recently installed ‘seal cam’ at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  3. UPDATED (3/21): Mayor orders Children’s Pool in La Jolla closed after dark through May 15
  4. UPDATED (Jan. 25): Webcam to monitor seals installed at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  5. UPDATED: City Attorney says ‘shared use’ working as La Jolla seal rope reinstalled

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Posted by Pat Sherman on May 7, 2013. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News, Seal Watch. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Comments for “Some community planners ready to cede fight over access to La Jolla Children’s Pool”

  1. Former LJ Resident

    Why don’t you just turn La Jolla over to all animals that inhabited it before it was built up?

  2. cheri Aspenleiter

    I spoke at this meeting representing the disabled people of the world, the Children and the Elderly. I am sorry that the LIght did not mention these VIP’s.
    This was my first time seeing Mr. La Cava in action. I was very disapointed indeed. Cowardly was my impression. He seemed to admit that it was wrong to stop the sand dredging and restoration of the pool a few years back. That a mistake was made. Actually I think it was illegal to add a use to a dead woman’s trust that totally obliterates the original uses as a human swimming pool. I think that was very illegal and that the City is amiss not to go back to that decision. How could they add a marine mammal park to the specific use of a human swimming pool, when the new use is not compatable with the main use it can not be added!!! The wall does not allow for the beach to be washed clean with the surf and there is fecal bacteria polluting the beach, the air and the smell is drifting to the retirement center already. It will only get worse with the heat too.
    Mr. La Cava did not comment about the disabled. I understand he is running for office. I think he can subtract any votes from the disabled since he does not support the pool built especially for them. That ramp was one of the first ramps for the disabled to a beach in our state and should be open right now. The beach should be cleaned and children should be running and playing and throwing beach balls. And so he is conceeding because of mistakes his City made in the past, instead of righting the wrong? Cowardly Sir. Very. We do not need cowardly people running our City.

  3. James

    I have a feeling you don’t speak for all disabled people (I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume a few would like to see the seals enjoy the beach)

    Mr. La Cava has volunteered his time and energy to making La Jolla a better place and for you to call him a “coward” for not continuing to fight a battle that’s been going on for 20 years is absolutely ridiculous!

    “You think it was very illegal” to change the CP trust. While we all appreciate your legal terms maybe you should try taking up the fight and filing a law suit on behalf of the disabled and/or children instead of crying that others don’t want to do it anymore?

    “the wall does not allow for the beach to be washed clean…” as far as I know there has never been an illness attributed to swimming at CP and people swim there all the time. If you have a record of such an illness feel free to cite it.

    “Smell” Nature has smells I’m not sure what you want to do here, shoot all the birds?

    “The ramp” it may have been one of the first ramps but now they all have ramps! How awesome is the ADA? There are so many options for beach use.

    In your past posts you’ve mentioned a fear of sharks as well. In the entire history of the human occupation of San Diego County there has been ONE shark fatal shark bite ONE!!! I would say your fear is a little over blown.

    You say we don’t need Cowardly people running our city but, have you joined the Town Council? Merchants Association? How have you served? Stop complaining and sign up.

  4. Cheryl Aspenleiter

    Dear James, First and foremost, you are incorrect. as NONE of the beaches have ramps. No other beach has a breakwater wall builit especially for the disabled and for children. Children’s Pool was especailly designed for them. Period.

    They just found a surfer dead three days ago. He had been bitten by a shark.

    I swim at Children’s Pool. Do YOU James? Are you speaking from experience? I have not seen you in the pool swimming and until you do you are NOT speaking from experience. The smell is from seal poop James, no one cleans the Children’s Pool Beach. The wall prevents the ocean from cleaning the beach, and the sand needs to be dredged out and the sluiceways opened to keep the water flowing. The sand is not natural there, before the wall there was no sand. And no seals hauling out.
    I challenge You James to stand behind your words, and find a safe sorkeling area for someone who does not have the use of their legs. Find ONE safe place for a wheelchair swimmer. Children’s Pool is IT. No where else in La Jolla can a wheel chair swimmer go and have a breakwater that creates a pool for safe entry. And to change a dead woman’s trust to include a use that obliterates the Trust altogether I think is illegal and needs to be revisited.
    It is not healthy for the seals or for people. A Marine Mammal Park is not dondusive with a Children’s Bathing Pool and Playground. Feces should nover be allowed to build up on a beach. Natural beaches wash away this material.
    I challenge you to a snorkel at Children’s Pool James. And I challenge you to find another safe ocean pool with a ramp for a man without legs.
    I am standing by…

  5. Cheryl Aspenleiter

    P.S. To James.
    I have been volunteering my whole life. And I currently serve in my community teaching about the ocean. I am a Tide Pool Interpreter and a Whale Docent each week for the past three years. And over twenty years volunteering at elementary, middle school, and high schools. It has always been a priority in my life. As is my passion to save the Jewel of La Jolla, Children’s Pool for the Children and the disabled and the elderly The seals have all the other beaches, and these Very Important People have no other safe ocean pool. It was built for them not as a seal poop pit. I swim with the seals, they pet me. They are my pals. Do you have this expereince with the seals ? There are just too many of them. The underwater environment is become a barren wasteland. Even the Garibaldi are declining. Come swimming and see. Its about balance James, the ocean is about balance. Allowing the beach to go to the seals keeps the imbalance going . Dredge out the sand, the seals will haul out elsewhere just as they did before. And be healthier for it. Seal Rock is much safer for the seals as its not safe for humans. Balance James, , balance. And not selfhish human desires to watch seals in a unnatural environment while holding your nose to the stench. Balance of the ecosystems is the priority.
    C

  6. James

    I grew up swimming at CP and the Cove, but I don’t swim at CP anymore I’d rather the seals have it! I live about 400 yards away and enjoy walking down there at least 5 times a week.

    What credentials do you have to make a statement like “And to change a dead woman’s trust to include a use that obliterates the Trust altogether I think is illegal and needs to be revisited.” did you study the law? Where? Did you practice? How are you and expert? These are the same questions I ask about everyone of your claims!

    “It is not healthy for the seals or for people.”

    “A Marine Mammal Park is not dondusive with a Children’s Bathing Pool and Playground.”

    “Feces should nover be allowed to build up on a beach. Natural beaches wash away this material.”

    ” There are just too many of them.”

    ” The underwater environment is become a barren wasteland.”

    “Even the Garibaldi are declining.”

    You need to follow up your claims with data and warrants! If you do that you might persuade me!

    Providing these will make your argument! Unless your data and warrant are inaccurate! EXAMPLE:
    “They just found a surfer dead three days ago. He had been bitten by a shark.”
    This claim is barely true! The surfer was bit after drowning!
    http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/may/10/autopsy-ca-surfer-drowned-before-bitten-by-shark/

    See how I used a credible source to back up my “facts”

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