BY DAVE SCHWAB
There is a flurry of activity surrounding the La Jolla’s Children’s Pool as the placement of a rope barrier separating humans from harbor seals during their pupping approaches.
On Thursday, Dec. 9 the city Planning Commission will hear an appeal brought by the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) challenging year-round placement of the rope barrier at the pool.
Meanwhile, animal advocates have launched an 11th-hour legal attempt to get the rope barrier up at the pool even earlier than the Dec. 15 start of the seals’ pupping season. And, seal advocates led by attorney Bryan Pease of the Animal Protection & Rescue League, are disputing a new city regulation allowing only two free-speech tables at a time, via a monthly lottery, at Children’s Pool.
In the first lottery held for the new monthly pool regulation effective Dec. 1, two pro-beach access groups, San Diego Council of Divers and Children’s Pool Friends, received permits to set up information tables.
“A federal court recently struck down a similar lottery system in Venice Beach, and the conservation groups here intend to set up their tables as they have for the past six years,” said Pease in an e-maill which also admonishes Mayor Jerry Sanders for “continuing to fail to follow a council resolution he signed last June requiring immediate replacement of the guideline rope that keeps humans and seals a safe distance apart, and complete closure of the beach during pupping season Dec. 15-May 15.”
Pease also filed a motion Nov. 30 in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order (tro) to get the pool rope barrier up sooner than Dec. 15. “The rope barrier was supposed to be up all summer,” he said. “This is a critical time as the pupping season actually starts Dec. 1, not Dec. 15.”
Noting weekends are the worst times when there is the greatest likelihood of humans interfering with seals and their behavior, Pease said having the rope up even one additional weekend before the 15th “could decrease the possibility of premature births."
"I’m also asking that the beach be closed during pupping season,” he said.
Deputy City Attorney George Schaefer said the city disputes Pease’s legal claims.
“The city’s position is that this lawsuit is totally frivolous,” said Schaefer. “This is the fourth lawsuit Mr. Pease has filed, and he’s lost them all, the federal judges have dismissed them. Now he’s filing a new application (tro) on grounds that were not even raised in the original lawsuit. You can’t go back and raise a new issue, in this case that people shouldn’t be allowed on the beach, that weren’t part of the original lawsuit.”
In preparation for the Dec. 9 hearing, Joe LaCava, LJCPA president, has raised several challenges in the planning group's written appeal of the city’s proposal to place the Children’s Pool rope barrier up year-round. The meeting is set for 9 a.m. in City Council Chambers, 12th floor, 202 C St. in downtown San Diego.
Among points raised against putting the pool rope barrier up year-round, LJCPA contends the proposal:
Is in conflict with lateral and vertical access to the shoreline.
Findings cannot be made that it will not encroach on any existing physical accessway legally used by the public.
Fails to adequately consider the ranger program and other options to the rope barrier.
Does not qualify for a CEQA exemption.