Parks & Beaches board blasts San Diego’s planned year-round Point La Jolla closure
The La Jolla Parks & Beaches board voiced its disapproval of the city of San Diego’s planned year-round closure of Point La Jolla during its April 24 meeting, calling the decision “short-sighted,” “one-sided” and precedent-setting.
The plan, announced April 11, would extend the annual six-month closure during sea lion pupping season to all year.
The city of San Diego plans to make the seasonal closure of Point La Jolla year-round, saying it doesn’t have enough staff to keep people “out of harm’s way” when the area is open.
The seasonal closure from May 1 through Oct. 31, which started last year, is implemented through signs, a chain across the wooden access stairway and two K-rail barriers on the western end of the closure area.
Point La Jolla is a rocky area between La Jolla Cove beach and Boomer Beach where sea lions go on land to rest and give birth. The closure also applies to the bluffs at Boomer Beach, where sea lions also haul out.
Boomer Beach water access will remain open via a makeshift trail.
Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, told the LJP&B board that “there was an understanding ... with the [California] Coastal Commission that this [seasonal closure] would be reviewed after one year. We are down to the one-year [mark] and the Coastal Commission asked what our plan was going to be going forward.”
A preliminary long-term management plan submitted in October recommended that the closure dates, location and methods stay the same. San Diego’s permit for the closure is in effect for seven years, assuming the city meets conditions set by the commission.
Recommended dates, location and methods are the same as during this year’s seasonal closure, which lasted from May 1 to Oct. 31, but the plan also calls for data to be collected to measure the closure’s effectiveness.
However, Hadley added that because of staffing issues and “confrontations” with docents who help patrol the area, “the Coastal Commission said the plan they prefer is just to shut the whole thing down year-round.”
Thus, the city will work on an ordinance, and the permit for the seasonal closure will be amended to indicate it is year-round, Hadley said.
LJP&B President Bob Evans read a statement expressing his opposition to that plan.
“I hear the city and the sea lions advocates call this plan a win-win, but everyone actually loses in the far greater sense here. … In the last few years, the condition of Scripps Park has declined and a major cause of that is this unmanaged presence of hundreds of pinnipeds,” Evans said. “There is the unsightly assemblage of cones, orange barriers and yellow police tape all around the park there, and there are more and more negative consequences associated with the park being near a rookery.
“The proposed city plan is short-sighted and one-sided. A proper management plan would recognize that what happens on Point La Jolla matters to the whole park area. … We need a locally based long-term park conservation plan that can help San Diego properly invest in protecting the natural resources.”
Others at the meeting agreed.
Local waterman Kurt Hoffman said environmental impacts of the closure need to be studied. “There is a whole part of the environmental problem that is not being looked at,” he said.
Hoffman has long advocated an EIR. In an August guest commentary published by the La Jolla Light, he wrote that the report is necessary “to study the entire La Jolla Canyon marine ecosystem as well as the land, traffic, parking and other environmental impacts on the community of La Jolla” of a sea lion habitat at Point La Jolla that he said serves as a tourist attraction and pollutes the water with feces and urine.
LJP&B trustee Tom Brady echoed the need for an environmental impact report. “I think the City Council is remiss in its responsibility because it didn’t do an EIR.”
Fellow trustee Marie Hunrichs said she was concerned about setting a precedent for year-round closures and questioned whether the Children’s Pool would be next. The Children’s Pool, where harbor seals haul out and give birth, is closed to the public from Dec. 15 to May 15 annually for the pupping season.
LJP&B member Melinda Merryweather said local surfers and swimmers “know how to relate to the sea lions” and that tourists and others who are less familiar with pinnipeds are the problem.
“If the tourists are the problem … maybe they shouldn’t be allowed in that area,” she said.
Hadley suggested that she propose a way to identify who the tourists are and how to enforce such a policy.
Trustee Phyllis Minick noted that there are dogs across La Jolla “and people have been bitten, but we find a way to deal with that without closing streets and parks.”
LJP&B Vice President Brenda Fake said “the Coastal Commission has failed this community” in its determination that a year-round closure is necessary.
A City Council hearing with opportunities for public comments will be held to review input from the city attorney’s office about the ordinance and any environmental analysis, but that hearing has not yet been scheduled.
LaCava previously said the city intends to have the new ordinance and permit approved by October, before this year’s seasonal closure is set to end.
Other LJP&B news
Fence repair: Evans said there has been progress in an effort to repaint or repair the white wooden fences along Scripps Park and the surrounding coastal areas.
“There are a lot of steps that need to be taken, but [recently] we met with the city and … we’re developing that coordination agreement of what we want the scope of work [to be] combined with what the Transportation Department will allow us to do,” he said.
Evans said the next step is getting the scope of work “clearly defined” and getting approval of the city. Thus, work will not begin for a few months.
Shack roof: The Windansea surf shack, which is maintained by Friends of Windansea, is slated to get a new roof of fronds in coming weeks.
Merryweather said the previous roof was removed recently and that palm fronds are limited due to a continuing infestation in the area of South American palm weevils. As soon as enough are secured to make a proper roof, they will be installed.
Next meeting: La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, May 22, at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Learn more at lajollaparksbeaches.org. ◆
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