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La Jolla Planners vote against Children’s Pool closure: Want plan that accommodates all users of the beach

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Children’s Pool beach on Coast Boulevard is closed annually by way of a chain and sign during harbor seal pupping season, Dec. 15 to May 15.
(Light File)

Ahead of a June California Coastal Commission hearing as to whether to continue to close Children’s Pool beach for five months out of the year — and continue to install a 152-foot rope across the beach the other seven months — the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) voted to send a pre-drafted letter (signed by chair Bob Steck) to the Coastal Commission against the proposal.

Discussed at the March 7 LJCPA meeting, the board voted 13-1-1 to send the letter.

The Coastal Commission will hear a permit extension request for the “installation of a guideline rope, including support posts, foundations, informational signs a three-foot opening to provide beach and ocean access and to create a buffer between humans and harbor seals that haul out on the La Jolla Children’s pool beach through Aug. 14, 2029” and “closure of Children’s Pool beach to all public access during harbor seal pupping season (Dec. 15 to May ) through Aug. 14, 2029.” The date and location of the meeting have not been announced.

Beach-access advocate Ken Hunrichs spoke at the LJCPA meeting to state his opposition to the potential closure and barrier rope extension.

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“My contention and the reason I am asking the LJCPA to oppose the City’s plan is because the City was given some conditions to fulfill as a condition of the original permit (that they have not met),” he said. Among the terms, Hunrichs said the City was asked to: examine the feasibility of ADA access, examine the water quality and determine any method to improve it and analyze the quality of the sand and determine a method for improving it.

He said the City came up with a list of suggestions to improve the water and sand quality, but the only one deemed feasible was “do nothing, continue monitoring.” The County of San Diego has since issued a chronic advisory for the water because the quality “does not typically meet State health standards at this beach.” There has also not been any changes to ADA access to the beach.

Fellow beach access advocate Phyllis Minick added during public comment: “Children’s Pool is one of the greatest assets this City has. Millions of people come here from all over the world to see the Children’s Pool. It should be the beautiful and tranquil place it was built to be. You have the power to help us do that. … Please write the letter and plead, beg or demand that the conditions (in the letter) are met.”

In the letter, LJCPA chair Steck writes: “Please reject the City’s application for beach closure permit extensions without imposing intended improvement standards. Instead, require a better beach management plan that accommodates all users of the beach with clean sand and water. The Children’s Pool Beach closure was an extreme measure which has encouraged colonization by more seals at Children’s Pool and nearby beaches. This will only lead to more demands for more closed beaches as popular urban recreational beaches are occupied by the growing seal population. This is of great concern to the La Jolla Community Planning Association and anyone wanting to maintain and improve coastal access in La Jolla.”

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The letter continued to argue that the rope barrier is “blocking access across 152 feet of a 155-foot-wide beach (98 percent) and is an encroachment on an established physical access way to the shoreline in violation of the Coastal Act. A summertime rope barrier cannot be justified or permitted to remain in its current form.”

The beach is currently closed Dec. 15 to May 15 annually by way of a chair barrier across the middle level stairs, and a rope barrier intended to be a visual deterrent to keep humans away from harbor seals is in place the rest of the year.

In 2010, a 130-foot rope was approved by the City to separate humans and harbor seals during the annual pupping season; in 2012, it was extended to 152 feet, leaving a three-foot opening for divers and spear-fishermen. It would be installed in the early morning hours of Dec. 15 and come down May 16.

In 2012, the City of San Diego approved a permit to install and maintain the rope barrier year-round.

The decision to close Children’s Pool entirely was approved by the San Diego City Council on March 18, 2014, and by the Coastal Commission soon after.

In 2015, the Coastal Commission voted to extend the permit for the rope by four years. To avoid redundancy and public confusion, the Coastal Commission required the rope come down when the beach is closed.

The rope barrier and beach closure will be heard at the June Coastal Commission meeting as one package. Updates will be posted as they become available at: coastal.ca.gov