Sea lion signs at Point La Jolla are damaged, removed and locked up

A damaged sign reading "Stay back: sea lion birthing area" is shown after it was recovered from the water at Point La Jolla.
A damaged sign that reads “Stay back: sea lion birthing area” is pictured after it was recovered from the water below Point La Jolla at low tide.
(Courtesy of Robyn Davidoff)

Docents who patrol Point La Jolla have reported repeated acts of vandalism in the area, particularly targeting signs that instruct visitors to keep their distance from the sea lions there.

The A-frame signs that warn against approaching the sea lions or taking pictures with them are routinely tethered to railings using locks approved by the city of San Diego that can be unlocked by a city employee for use when needed. However, someone has placed an extra lock on the signs that needs to be cut so they can be used.

Further, signs affixed to the railings that label Point La Jolla as a “sea lion birthing area” have been ripped off and either taken or thrown into the water below.

Richard Miller, director of the Sierra Club’s San Diego chapter, said “it is not tourists doing this,” though he did not say who he suspects might be responsible.

Sierra Club Seal Society docent and chairwoman Robyn Davidoff blamed “locals” and said the acts of vandalism “are specific and targeted against the city’s efforts to provide public safety for people when viewing sea lions and should not be tolerated. Vandalism not only reflects poorly on La Jolla but wastes taxpayer dollars used to replace and install the signs.”

She said she has documented several such incidents since last fall.

“No selfies with sea lions” signs, which bear the emblem of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and provide multilingual guidance for viewing the pinnipeds from a distance, are in place year-round. But Davidoff said one was stolen from the area in October and was not found. In January, one was found at the south end of nearby Boomer Beach.

In January, a yellow sign reading “Stay back: sea lion birthing area” was reported missing and was later found at the bottom of the Marine Protected Area during low tide.

“We all have forums to get our viewpoints across, such as local planning group meetings, and that is the appropriate way to do it, not stealing signs,” Davidoff said.

Last month, Davidoff said, she and another docent saw a new silver lock on the A-frame signs on multiple days. The docents said they contacted the ranger on duty to ask if the city had placed the lock. Upon learning it had not, law enforcement was called to cut off the lock so the docents could put the signs in view of visitors.

Robyn Davidoff shows a silver lock placed on signs that instruct people to keep their distance from sea lions in La Jolla.
Seal Society docent Robyn Davidoff shows a silver lock placed on signs that instruct people to keep their distance from sea lions in La Jolla. The lock was not placed by the city of San Diego.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Davidoff also said the city’s notice of a pending permit for a planned seasonal closure of Point La Jolla has been removed several times.

The annual closure would be in effect daily from May 25 through Sept. 15, during much of the sea lion pupping season, which is commonly recognized from June 1 to Oct. 31.

Point La Jolla, a rocky area between Boomer Beach and La Jolla Cove beach where sea lions go on land to rest and give birth, was closed for five weeks last summer, Aug. 11 to Sept. 15, on an emergency basis following months of reports of beach-goers bothering, and in a few cases harming, sea lions and their pups.

The seasonal closure would be similar to the emergency closure in that it would include posted signs, a K-rail barrier and a chain to cordon off the beach access stairs at the border of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove.

The annual closure area, known to some as “the pork chop” for its shape, would include Point La Jolla and some of the bluffs overlooking Boomer Beach. ◆