City won’t add rails to La Jolla Cove bluff path; lifeguards may lock gate

By Pat Sherman and Ashley Mackin

The path leading from the gate along Coast Boulevard to the La Jolla Cove bluffs. Proceed at your own risk, signs caution.

A lock placed on a gate the city recently installed in the fence above La Jolla Cove was only temporary, and intended to keep people from walking onto the bluffs during last week’s dangerous high surf.

City officials have stated that the gate — installed to facilitate human access to the Cove bluffs as a deterrent to sea lions and birds gathering and defecating there — will remain unlocked.

A private citizen ostensibly upset with people walking so close to the wildlife placed a lock on the gate shortly after it was installed, though the lock was promptly cut off (reportedly by a local business owner).

Private citizens are not permitted to lock the gate, though Jill Esterbrooks, communications director for District 1 San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, said lifeguards at La Jolla Cove may lock the gate if they feel the tide is too high or conditions make it unsafe to walk on the bluffs. People noticing a lock on the gate may ask a lifeguard or consult tidal charts at the Cove lifeguard tower as to how long the lock may remain in place.

Much ado about poo?
A lawsuit filed in December on behalf of the nonprofit “Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement” (comprised of residents and business owners fed up with what they consider city officials’ reluctance to solve the Cove odor issue) could be dismissed if the nauseating, albeit recently diminished, smell does not return in full force.

La Jolla Shores attorney Norm Blumenthal of Blumenthal, Nordrehaug and Bhowmik, who filed the complaint, confirmed that merchants are reporting a significant decrease in the stench since easy human access to the bluffs was restored. Their presence has served as a legal and gentle deterrent to sea lions and cormorant birds gathering there.

Sea lions at La Jolla Cove are beginning to retreat closer to the water's edge due to the presence of humans on the bluff. File

“So far, so good,” Blumenthal said.  “There is some residue there, but it’s not a substantial problem. We’re hoping that it all just goes away.”

A hearing in San Diego Superior Court is scheduled for May. The San Diego City Attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit by press time.

“Hopefully by then the smell will be gone and we can dismiss (the suit). If it’s not, hopefully they’ll come up with other avenues of correcting it,” Blumenthal said, noting some methods the city can employ to legally scatter the birds and sea lions (in part per the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act), such as the use of air dancers, noise or water spray.

The city is currently working on a comprehensive plan to manage La Jolla’s coastline and wildlife, including the seals at Children’s Pool and the sea lions at La Jolla Cove.

However, Blumenthal said a request in the suit that the city add handrails to the path leading from the gate to the bluffs — a suggested safety precaution — won’t likely be adopted.

“As long as the city doesn’t take any steps to make it safer with handrails, they’re not liable for anybody falling,” explained Blumenthal, who said he discussed the matter with the city attorney, comparing it with a similar legal quandary at Black’s Beach decades ago. “If they put in handrails, then they’d be assuming liability for people falling.”

Related posts:

  1. Gate Goes In: City creates access to La Jolla Cove cliffs
  2. More people join lawsuit over La Jolla Cove stench; complaint amended to reflect gate installation
  3. Business owners sue city over La Jolla Cove odor caused by sea lions and bird waste
  4. La Jolla Cove Stench: City to reveal fence removal decision Nov. 15 in effort to thin sea lion colony
  5. Mayor declares first round of La Jolla Cove stench cleanup a success

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Jan 28, 2014. Filed under La Jolla, News. 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.

4 Comments for “City won’t add rails to La Jolla Cove bluff path; lifeguards may lock gate”

  1. Bill

    Let’s keep walking down there. We cannot get complacent. People, including tourists, need to know that this area is accessible. As noted earlier, the gate is a joke, as it does not appear to be a gate.

    Mr. Blumenthal, please include a demand for the gate to be clearly marked as such. Better yet, remove the gate and leave a space for easy ingress and egress.

  2. Dave

    The gate should be removed entirely. Having a lockable gate is just an invite to the bonkers seal people to put locks on it without the city’s permission. Try stopping by the childrens pool these days. The seaal nuts put cones, duct tape, and even chains across the stairs on a regular basis saying the beach is closed. I’m certain they will do the same at the cove too.

  3. It’s about time. Not only was the smell nauseating, I believe the recent huge kelp bloom in the cove is caused by the excessive amount of “fertilizer” being washed off the rocks into the water.

  4. Steve

    PUBLIC ACCESS points in California normally have adequate signage. The gate the city installed to allow access to the bluffs just north of the La Jolla Cove should also have proper signage indicating that the gate is a PUBLIC ACCESS point to the bluffs. There are signs posted to dissuade other behavior, none encouraging the public to enter. There isn’t even an “ENTRANCE” sign! This area should not be kept a secret!

    As I walked through the gate this morning for the very first time ever I was asked by a father with his family if I was afraid I would be given a ticket! When the young man learned it was a public area he said he was surprised that there was no sign! The entire family went down and enjoyed the unique view from the bluffs.

    I would like to suggest the city post proper signage.

    Thank you.

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