Parks & Beaches readies to weigh in on future of Point La Jolla; seeks continued access to Boomer Beach

Sea lions rest at Point La Jolla in September.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

As the city of San Diego looks to refine the details of possible future closures of Point La Jolla, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board decided this week to form a working group to create a recommendation and voted to send a letter to the city advocating continued access to adjacent Boomer Beach.

Point La Jolla, a rocky area between La Jolla Cove beach and Boomer Beach where sea lions often go on land to rest, was closed on an emergency basis for five weeks in late summer to keep people away from the sea lions. Point La Jolla also is a sea lion birthing area where the annual pupping season is recognized from June 1 to Oct. 31.

Ahead of the reopening Sept. 16, City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, sent a notice to community leaders indicating the city would “follow up with a coastal development permit for [more closures in] subsequent pupping seasons.” However, he said there would be time and opportunities for public feedback.

To make sure their voices would be heard, LJP&B members formed a working group to “address the issues relating to this area,” according to LJP&B President Claudia Baranowski. “It seems prudent to have a working group ... to address concerns, perspectives, etc., and provide an opportunity for community input.”

Up for debate was whether it would be fruitful to have a working group with beach access advocates who want the area to stay open and animal advocates who want it closed during pupping season.

The La Jolla Parks & Beaches board discusses possible future closures of Point La Jolla during its Sept. 27 meeting online.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

LJP&B trustee Ann Dynes said bringing together representatives of both sides would be “like putting [former President] Donald Trump and [President] Joe Biden in the same room together and asking them to come to a consensus. … A working group is not going to come to consensus on a letter [of recommendation]. ... But we need both sides to be fairly presented when any letter is presented.”

Trustee Patrick Ahern said a working group could take that “hour-and-a-half discussion between Trump and Biden” outside of a public meeting and then bring findings to a meeting. “I think there could be some benefit if there was a shared approach. It would get more support from the city and the community and everyone along those lines,” Ahern said.

Baranowski ultimately opted to form the working group. Volunteers from the board and public quickly agreed to participate.

A map submitted by Kurt Hoffman shows a potential Point La Jolla closure and an area he believes should be excluded.
A map of Point La Jolla submitted by local resident Kurt Hoffman shows a potential closure area (outlined in red) and an area that Hoffman believes should be excluded from closure (in green).
(Courtesy of Kurt Hoffman)

The board decided to separately request that the city preserve access to Boomer Beach, where sea lions also haul out.

Boomer Beach is of particular importance to bodysurfers because flotation devices are not allowed. A map submitted by bodysurfer Kurt Hoffman showed a potential closure area outlined in red, including much of the bluffs overlooking Boomer Beach in addition to Point La Jolla. The map also was marked with green in an area that Hoffman believes should be excluded from closure.

The event comes soon after the city of San Diego temporarily closes nearby Point La Jolla to keep people away from sea lions.

There currently is a trailhead at the top that leads down to Boomer Beach. That access was preserved during the temporary closure of Point La Jolla, and LaCava said continuing the access would be “a prime consideration” in future closures.

The LJP&B board considered a draft letter suggesting that the closure area be reduced to allow for more space at the trailhead leading to Boomer Beach and at the beach itself.

“We as a group [of ocean recreation users] do not support the idea of closing off coastal access or the idea of setting up these sea lion birthing areas,” Hoffman said.

Swimmer Tom Keener said “the bodysurfers and divers that use that beach and the trail on a regular basis have no problem with sea lions. We cohabitate. ... There is no reason to stop us from using that beach. … To lose it would be catastrophic.”

LJP&B trustee Jane Reldan said she was “against the letter, against the shared use and against the broadening of the access point to include the beach. The sea lions pup on the beach.”

A motion to accept the letter passed 13-3, with trustees Reldan, Tim Seery and Jon Wiggins opposed. Ahern abstained without comment. ◆