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Guest commentary: Environmental report at Point La Jolla and access to Boomer Beach are essential

The large rocks of Boomer Beach
The large rocks of Boomer Beach, which are typically slippery and uneven, don’t lend themselves well to sea lion birthing, according to Ocean Access Advocates.
(Courtesy of Kurt Hoffman)

Ocean Access Advocates were disappointed but not surprised by the vote of the California Coastal Commission on April 8 (“Coastal Commission OKs six-month seasonal closure of Point La Jolla and includes most of Boomer Beach,” April 14, La Jolla Light).

The lobbyists of the Sierra Club and Seal Society did a great job communicating their sea lion safety concerns to the city of San Diego and the CCC over the past year. Our independent, unfunded voices of the Ocean Access Advocates were supported by the La Jolla Community Planning Association and La Jolla Park & Beaches, both of which overwhelmingly endorsed our proposal to preserve human access to Boomer Beach and the No Mans ocean access entry point.

We respectfully disagree with the Surfrider Foundation’s support of the Seal Society despite Surfrider’s fundamental value of “fighting to ensure full and fair beach access for all to enjoy.” Beach access should be a priority for the Surfrider Foundation, whether with a surfboard or without — bodysurfing. Boomer Beach is the only year-round protected bodysurfing beach (no flotation devices allowed) in all of California.

No boards or flotation devices are allowed for those going in the ocean at Boomer Beach.
(Courtesy of Kurt Hoffman)

The La Jolla community groups also overwhelmingly supported the OAA proposal for an environmental impact report, to be commissioned by the city, to study the impacts of La Jolla’s California sea lion colony on the air, water and land environments of La Jolla.

We understand the current issues of tourists and selfies with sea lions. We will support the city’s coastal development permit for a seasonal closure of Point La Jolla for 2022, but we do not support closing safe access to Boomer Beach and No Mans. OAA and La Jolla community groups request that the CDP be revisited in 2023 and that an EIR be commissioned by the city as soon as possible.

OAAs care deeply about the environment, fish, invertebrates, kelp, sharks and marine mammals we swim with. The local marine environment is being polluted with the equivalent of 500 to 800 gallons of raw sewage daily from the California sea lion colony in La Jolla.

The long-term governmental protections of sea lions and other pinnipeds, along with SeaWorld’s rescue and release program in our local waters, has impacted the populations both of pinnipeds and their primary predator, great white sharks. Both of these species have increased in population beyond their historical carrying capacities. This is why we see California sea lions on the La Jolla shore and great white sharks all along our coastline, when historically we have not seen these species in such great numbers.

An EIR to study the water quality, tide pools, land impacts and air quality is a condition of approval the California Coastal Commission should have placed on the Point La Jolla CDP application. OAA has requested an EIR for all of Ellen Browning Scripps Park land and water environments. The city of San Diego and the CCC have not responded to our requests for an EIR.

An environmental impact analysis should begin ASAP to better understand the impacts on the marine ecosystem of the growing California sea lion colony in La Jolla.

Point La Jolla and the bluffs below Brockton Villa show daily evidence of the pollution and toxic waste that the sea lions bring to our shores and local waters. The now five years of birthing and pupping activities that the city has allowed to develop in La Jolla is not without negative impacts and sights for local tourists. The large slippery rocks that make up Boomer Beach are only periodically covered with sand that may provide a viable surface for birthing sea lion pups.

OAA respectfully disagrees with the Seal Society assertion that 40 percent of the sea lion births in La Jolla occur on Boomer Beach. The rock shelves of Point La Jolla and the bluffs of Razor Reef below Brockton Villa provide flat surfaces that are more heavily utilized for pup birthing than the large rocks of Boomer Beach, which are typically quite slippery and uneven. Newborn pups can easily be trapped in the deep crevices of these rocks.

The Seal Society prioritizes pinniped safety and sanctuary over human access to our coast. This ideal should be in conflict with the Coastal Commission’s historical mission of preservation of public access to our coast. We now seem to be in a new era of animals being favored over humans and the environment.

Kelly O’Sullivan, Dr. George Chiang, Ken Hunrichs and Kurt Hoffman are members of Ocean Access Advocates.