Parks & Beaches may appeal Commission decision on beach access/seals rope barrier at Children’s Pool


Following the decision by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) to continue the rope barrier/seasonal closure of Children’s Pool (aka Casa Beach) for the next decade earlier this month, La Jolla Parks & Beaches (LJP&B) advisory group met, and members responded with their thoughts on the decision, worries for the future and possible next steps.

The CCC voted unanimously on June 13 to extend the permits until 2029 to: 1) close the beach by way of a sign and chain at the middle level stairs during harbor seal pupping season (Dec. 15-May 15); and 2) use the guideline rope to encourage distance between humans and harbor seals the remaining months.

LJP&B has historically favored human access to Children’s Pool and opposed closure methods, and two LJP&B trustees spoke at the CCC meeting to argue that point. One of them, Ken Hunrichs, said human safety polices should be of higher priority than the harbor seals “which are not threatened or endangered.” Others were in attendance, but did not speak.

At the LJP&B meeting June 24, Hunrichs added: “As we suspected going into (the meeting), they extended the program by 10 years, even though the permit the City has been operating under for the last five years required the City to go in and improve the sand and water quality and access for disabled people (which they have not done). … It’s very unfortunate they extended the permit for 10 years.”

He also critiqued the Commissioners’ lack of questions for the City and the data it presented.

Trustee Phyllis Minick added the thing that means the most to her are “the people of La Jolla,” and that the CCC “ignored” the will of the people. Both LJP&B and the La Jolla Community Planning Association voted to draft and send letters against the 10-year rope-and-closure system.

“The people (via these boards) voted to keep the beach open, clean the water, clean the beach and restore access,” she said. “I would hope what this community asked for and believed was possible, would be of most importance.”

Going forward, Hunrichs opined the decision would open the door to a permanent, year-round closure of the beach.

“You only have to look at the history of Children’s Pool to see the invented crisis created to cause the City to fall in line with some of the more radical (people) of our community that want to close the beach,” he said. “We will need to be prepared for when certain members of the community come and ask for a complete closure of Children’s Pool. It will then be the time to decide whether Children’s Pool has any value.”

Jane Reldan, LJP&B member and president of The Seal Conservancy, which supported the permit extension, countered that the CCC approved the “protections for the seals” unanimously, and suggested the board “put this decision aside” and “let the Coastal Commission decision stand.”

She added that no one to her knowledge was seeking a complete closure.

“The Coastal Commission has two charges: coastal access and habitat conservation. They are not going to compromise either one, and they are not (losing either one) with this elegant compromise. … This body does not have to fear a complete closure,” Reldan said.

By way of “next steps,” Hunrichs said he would follow the Substantial Conformance Review that is underway for a project at Children’s Pool, which involved the construction of a short wall in front of a slope that has historically been used as a ramp to get down to the beach.

The City constructed the 18-inch wall as part of the recent Children’s Pool lifeguard tower replacement project, and, while the wall required a change in permits, the City determined it was consistent and in conformance with a previously approved permit. However, the LJCPA determined it was not in conformance and is likely going to appeal the Substantial Conformance Review findings.

Hunrichs said that appeal would be heard by the City Council in July or August, and at that time, would speak out against the limited access to Children’s Pool, and possibly take the appeal all the way back up to the CCC.

— La Jolla Parks & Beaches meets 4 p.m. Monday, July 22 at Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.