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‘Maybe it will get more tourists to come to La Jolla’: Viral sea lion video creates local buzz

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava addresses the La Jolla Village Merchants Association board July 13.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Days after the release of a viral video that showed sea lions appearing to chase beach-goers at La Jolla Cove, San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, was on hand at the La Jolla Village Merchants Association meeting July 13 to discuss the video and whether it may affect tourism.

The video was posted to social media app TikTok on July 10 and showed two sea lions charging down the beach at The Cove as people ran and jumped out of the way. It quickly garnered millions of views, as well as posts on local and national news sites.

“I think we are all familiar with that kind of activity, but the rest of the world was fascinated by it, which is great,” LaCava told the Merchants Association board with a laugh. “Maybe it will get more tourists to come to La Jolla, but it also reminds us of what we see on [travel websites] is that [viewing the pinnipeds] is one of the things to do in La Jolla.”

Going forward, LaCava said, he wants to “preserve both the viewing access of the wildlife, because you never see that in such an urban space like La Jolla,” but also “preserve the coastal access and recreational activities we are also known for, which is a delicate balance.”

No potential change to beach access was discussed.

LaCava, then a community group leader, was involved in the effort that led in 2014 to the entire closure of the Children’s Pool to the public each December to May in accord with harbor seal pupping season. As a councilman, he led the effort to close Point La Jolla during sea lion pupping season using signs and a chain across the wooden stairs that provide access. The seasonal Point La Jolla closure was implemented this year from May 1 to Oct. 31 and will be in effect at least seven years.

“The sea lions don’t need any protection from us, but the people do,” LaCava said. “Specifically, the people who do not understand what a wild animal is all about and why you shouldn’t place your child next to a sea lion for an Instagram pic.”

When the video was released, it sparked debate about whether the sea lions were chasing the humans.

SeaWorld San Diego rescue team leader Eric Otjen said the video showed normal sea lion behavior, as males spar this time of year during breeding season.

Otjen said a male sea lion seen darting around people was fleeing from another male that was chasing him, likely because they were fighting over females. Both sea lions had ample opportunities to attack people if they wanted to but instead barreled past them, Otjen said.

The La Jolla Village Merchants Association meets July 13 at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
The La Jolla Village Merchants Association meets July 13 at the La Jolla/Riford Library.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Other LJVMA news

New board members: Two newly elected board members were sworn in and seated: Chad Taggart of Lobster West and Tamar Goldman-Sachs of the Cormorant Hotel.

Though Lobster West opened in May in La Jolla, Taggart said he has operated other locations of the establishment for nine years.

Goldman-Sachs is director of digital marketing strategy for the Cormorant and its restaurant, Bird’s Eye, which opened in April.

Grant for signs: After applying for several San Diego County grants, the board is receiving $20,000 to help fund its directional, or wayfinding, sign program. From here, the board will look at design options and refine the details of the program, said LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick.

The program has been in development for several years and has had several iterations. The most recent indicates there will be 26 static signs in strategic places mapped by a “mobility expert,” Rudick said. The project would include maps showing the general area and signs that indicate the direction and distance to landmarks and beaches.

Micro marketing: The board is in the process of launching a new marketing campaign to highlight streets in The Village outside of its main thoroughfares.

“The program is going to take the La Jolla Village and, street by street, create little micro districts,” Rudick said. “We want locals to understand we are much bigger than Girard [Avenue] and Prospect [Street] and we have amazing businesses … on Ivanhoe and Fay avenues.”

Under the program, offerings on each street will be highlighted through LJVMA blog posts and other social media.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Village Merchants Association next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Learn more at lajollabythesea.com. ◆