La Jolla Beaches group proposes rules for Seal Cam
By Ashley Mackin
A sub committee of the La Jolla Parks and Beaches advisory committee (LJP&B) — and outward opponents of the live streaming Seal Cam at Children’s Pool — drafted a letter to city officals outlining their suggestions for improved use of the camera, which they presented for approval at a July 22 meeting.
Stating concerns that the camera is being “misused” by aiming it at humans and areas of the beach where there are no seals, the committee members’ letter contained eight points they hope will serve as guidelines for camera operators.
These include preparing a statement of purpose for the camera, developing a policy outlining minimum qualifications and training standards for Seal Cam monitors, limiting the camera’s range of motion, posting signage about its use, and establishing a grievance process for those who feel the camera is being misused.
WAN Conservancy, the organization that installed and monitors the Seal Cam, got word of the letter and drafted a point-by-point response. Neither Larry nor Sara Wan (founders of the nonprofit WAN Conservancy) were present at the meeting, but sent a representative. However, the Wan’s counterpoints were not read at the meeting because LJP&B voted to submit its letter and deemed any argument irrelevant.
The LJP&B did give the floor to a representative from Supervisor Dave Roberts’ office, who read a related letter by Sara Wan defending the camera and its use. The letter cited examples of people harassing the seals, which the camera captured. “We have hours and hours of video showing this,” Wan’s letter stated, though none of the examples were dated and those involved were only identified as “a few selfish people.”
The letter went on to say, “This is the real basis of the objection to the Seal Cam, because it shows the atrocious behavior at the beach.”
One of the guidelines suggested by the LJP&B sub-committee is to “Clearly define areas off- limits to the camera’s view, such as stairs, showers, sidewalks, roads and buildings at or near Children’s Pool.”
In response to this proposal, Wan wrote, “If you wonder why we point (the Seal Cam) to the sidewalk, it is because of incidences where people have harassed seals from the sidewalk … A woman was walking her dogs each morning, stopping by the seals and placing the dogs in a position by the wall where they were barking at the seals — deliberate.”
After much discussion by the LJP&B subcommittee and Wan’s statement, the board voted to approve the eight points, with minor editing, and to add screenshots documenting what it considered to be the camera’s misuse.
For example, Cheryl Aspenleiter brought in screenshots taken from the camera’s web feed of herself going toward the showers at Children’s Pool, which she said is misuse.
Though the board approved the points and appendices, it remained unsure as to which city department the letter should go. Last month, Mayor Bob Filner added $50,000 to the Department of Park and Recreation’s budget for operation and maintenance of the Seal Cam. However, it’s not known how actively Park and Rec would be involved, whether it would be the appropriate point of contact, when that management transition would happen or how much of the $50,000 would go to the WAN Conservancy.
LJP&B Chair Dan Allen said in an e-mail to La Jolla Light, “My plan is to keep checking with (the Lifeguard Service) until they can tell me to whom the letter would be appropriately addressed.”
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