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More access to Boomer Beach offered in updated plan for seasonal Point La Jolla closure

An updated map of the city of San Diego's plan for a seasonal closure of Point La Jolla
An updated map of the city of San Diego’s plan for a seasonal closure of Point La Jolla indicates a reduced closure area at Boomer Beach (marked by the yellow line), compared with the former boundary (in red).
(Courtesy of city of San Diego)

San Diego officials floated an update to the city’s plan to seasonally close Point La Jolla, with a new closure boundary providing more access to adjacent Boomer Beach.

The update, presented at the La Jolla Town Council’s Jan. 13 meeting, was based on feedback since the city’s first presentation at a La Jolla Community Planning Association meeting a week earlier.

The closure would take effect yearly between June 1 and Oct. 31, during the recognized sea lion pupping season, to keep humans and sea lions apart amid ongoing reports of people bothering or harming the animals at Point La Jolla, a rocky area between La Jolla Cove beach and Boomer Beach where sea lions rest and give birth.

The seasonal closure would mirror the 2021 emergency closure from Aug. 11 to Sept. 15.

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said the plan for a seasonal closure is intended to ensure “a safe environment for both visitors and sea lions,” with the help of public input.

“We are making sure that this is a science-based solution, and we’re relying on the technical and expert opinion of a marine biologist to develop this seasonal closure plan,” he said.

Councilman Joe LaCava
Councilman Joe LaCava says the plan for a seasonal closure of Point La Jolla is intended to ensure “a safe environment for both visitors and sea lions.”
(Elisabeth Frausto)

LaCava said that in the week since the LJCPA meeting, the closure plan had been updated to reflect feedback from meetings with interested parties, letters from LJCPA and other input.

“We heard the message loud and clear that access to the ocean through Boomer Beach is important. … We are adjusting the boundary for safer access in this area,” he said.

City Parks & Recreation Department Assistant Director Karen Dennison showed a map similar to the one presented at the Jan. 6 LJCPA meeting, updated with a yellow line (the previously planned closure area is represented in red) to reflect that the city is “now looking at reducing the closure area to ... provide more access to Boomer Beach.”

Dennison said the closure would be implemented with more park rangers.

Currently, she said, the Parks & Recreation Department has two full-time park rangers who are responsible for patrolling 26 miles of shoreline. The department has received “additional staffing resources” to ensure five full-time shoreline rangers, meaning that one or two will be placed at Point La Jolla daily, “whether a closure is in place or not,” she said.

Dennison said the rangers likely will start in the spring and primarily will educate people about shoreline rules and conduct and “document any instances where there [are] problem encounters involving sea lions and humans.”

The closure plan also will involve physical barriers like those used in the emergency closure last year, including chains and a plastic K-rail. Dennison said the current plan would install two K-rails at the border of Boomer Beach.

Advocates for beach access and for the sea lions offered input during public comments.

Access advocates asked for environmental impact studies on water quality and the effects of the sea lions on the local ecology.

LaCava said “federal and state agencies are … evaluating Marine Protected Areas and coastal conservation areas. We’re looking to engage and share a local voice in this process to assess the marine ecology along La Jolla’s coastline.”

Local resident Kurt Hoffman said “the water quality is terrible in La Jolla Cove. I don’t swim La Jolla Cove any longer. I rarely bodysurf Boomer Beach because the water quality is so bad. … The amount of feces, the amount of urine that these sea lions are producing is affecting the environment.”

Resident and bodysurfer Durdam Rocherolle said the sea lions “need to just live in nature.” Human efforts to create a safe zone for them is “messing with nature,” Rocherolle said. “None of the people accessing Boomer are harassing or putting these animals in danger. We’re not [sea lion] haters.”

Robyn Davidoff, a Sierra Club Seal Society docent, asked how the city intends “to protect the newborn sea lion pups with the adjusted closure line allowing more access to Boomer Beach.”

Later, in a statement to the La Jolla Light, Davidoff wrote that the Seal Society “strongly [opposes] the proposed new boundary lines presented at the meeting. … This new boundary is ill-conceived and apparently based on one week of survey data. We have provided photo evidence and birth records showing over 20 sea lion pups were born on Boomer Beach in 2021. They use the entire area for birthing, nursing, swimming lessons and mating. Extending the boundary promotes and encourages ongoing harassment of the sea lions and newborn pups and likely will increase pup mortality.”

During the meeting, Seal Society docent Carol Archibald said she was “pretty upset at the yellow line” because sea lion pups need uninterrupted access to the beach as they learn to swim.

Jonathan Harrison, a La Jolla resident and Seal Society volunteer, said “we need to focus on ecotourism. The visitors and locals alike want the sea lions protected from harassment and irresponsible tourism.”

LaCava said input would continue to be incorporated into future versions of the closure plan, which is to be presented next at the La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting on Monday, Jan. 24.

Dennison said feedback may be given through the city’s website for the plan (sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/point-lajolla) or via email at pointlajolla@sandiego.gov.