Town Council vs. Sea Lions: ‘Call for Action’ sent to Mayor

Fed up with the City’s idleness in dispersing the burgeoning sea lion population at La Jolla Cove for the past two years, the La Jolla Sea Lion Task Force (started under the auspices of La Jolla Town Council) issued a “Call for Action,” with members requesting that the La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) be appointed as the organization to draft and execute a removal plan. 

Posted on lajollatowncouncil.org for about two weeks, the Call for Action petition garnered more than 1,500 signatures. At a special Sea Lion Task Force meeting Nov. 10 at the Rec Center, Town Council president Ann Kerr Bache said the petition was delivered to City Hall Nov. 3 by e-mail and certified letter, but representatives from Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office have not yet confirmed receipt. 

“We want to develop an action plan (for sea lion removal) … but there is no point in us doing anything until we get the Mayor’s authorization and designation (to be the party of action),” Kerr Bache said. “So we have not gotten into discussions on exactly what we’re going to do next. We’re waiting for the Mayor to step up to the plate (and provide us with some direction).”

Task Force member Debbie Beacham said a local organization should design and propose the plan to remove the sea lions, based on the findings of the recent Doyle Hanan & Associates report on the sea lions at La Jolla Cove (paid for by the City) and with actions approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). “If we get this recognition from the City, we could gain control of the problem within our community,” she said. 

Task Force member Dan Simonelli added, “A lot of us, divers and swimmers, have had great experiences with sea lions over the years (and could lend first-hand knowledge). But as their numbers increase, they have created this public health and safety problem. It’s not just an inconvenience. There are increasing issues with interactions between humans and sea lions we need to address.”

The petition tackles the sea lion population in two phases. For Phase 1, “LJTC is willing and able to propose and execute a City-funded contract to plan the project in detail by analyzing the options, developing an implementation plan, and scheduling and developing cost estimates. The La Jolla community has many experts in all relevant areas, so the Town Council would execute this contract by creating and managing a team including subcontracted and pro bono experts. If and when requested (formally or informally), LJTC will submit a proposal for this project.”

For Phase 2, which focuses on executing the plan, “Implementation of the plan will require some number of material and construction vendors. It will also require continuing input from the subcontracted and pro bono experts involved the Phase I. The LJTC is able to manage this under a contract from the City, should that be helpful. Also, long-term sustainment of the solution is much more practical and cost-effective with extensive use of pro bono experts. The La Jolla community is very rich such resources, so the LJTC could organize and manage this part of the effort. Finally, given a City commitment to solve this problem in a sustained way, LJTC is confident it can raise substantial amounts of donated money to offset or reduce the needed input of taxpayer funding.”

Although unsure of what the plan would ultimately be, Kerr Bache said, “We are being very careful in considering the law of unintended consequences. We’re not rushing into anything. We just know the sea lion removal plan has to be sustainable and longterm.”

The Call for Action is one of the a few steps LJTC has taken to attempt to find a solution to the sea lion problem as it developed. In June and July, LJTC held public forums to gather ideas, called “Crisis at The Cove” hearings. The Task Force formed following those hearings and consists of divers, swimmers, La Jolla residents and members of community advisory groups.

“The Sea Lion Task Force has representation from all of La Jolla’s community groups, including Parks & Beaches, La Jolla Village Merchants Association, La Jolla Shores Association and more, so it’s not just a La Jolla Town Council effort. This is a community effort,” Kerr Bache said. “The purpose of the Call for Action is to get Mayor Faulconer to do something and … we’re trying to build our voices. To advance this, we must flood the Mayor’s office with phone calls letting him know La Jollans want this to happen.”

Mayor Faulconer’s office can be reached at (619) 236-6330 or e-mail kevinfaulconer@sandiego.gov

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