Advisory group pleased with ranger at Children's Pool

Opposed to year-round seal rope barrier

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Longtime La Jollans and the advisory group representing them emphatically said yes to the Children’s Pool ranger and no to having a year-round rope barrier separating harbor seals from humans up at the pool.

Both issues were thoroughly vetted and La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCA) members overwhelming opposed the pool rope at the advisory group’s monthly meeting this week. The group vote against the pool rope was 10-1-2.

At the behest of group chair Joe LaCava, a second vote on the pool rope also got a near-unanimous nod from the group by an 11-0-2 margin. LaCava suggested the rope barrier should be subject to environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which it presently is not.

The controversial issue of whether to extend placement of the rope barrier, now up annually from Dec. 15 to May 15 during the marine mammals’ pupping season, to include the rest of the year will be aired before a hearing officer Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 8:30 a.m. at City Council Chambers on the 12th floor of the City Administration Building at 202 C St.

On Sept. 15, the hearing officer is being asked to conditionally approve or deny an application calling to amend a Coastal Development Permit and Site Development Permit to install and maintain year-round, in perpetuity, a rope barrier creating a buffer between humans and seals at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool. The hearing officer’s decision is final unless appealed to the Planning Commission.

At the LJCPA’s Sept. 2 meeting, a partisan crowd of locals including members from the swimming, scuba diving and surfing communities lined up to praise the job the interim ranger has been doing keeping the peace between seal advocates concerned about protecting the marine mammals, and residents maintaining their constitutional right to unfettered coastal access, at the pool.

Dan Daneri, city shoreline park director, gave a brief presentation detailing that the City Council last year voted 7-1 in favoring of amending the tidelands trust, which governs Children’s Pool allowing it to be used as marine mammal habitat per legislation sponsored by State Sen. Christine Kehoe (District 39).

More than 20 people spoke out against the rope and for the ranger at the Sept. 2 advisory board meeting.

“Cramming this (rope) down our throat with no parking is absolutely absurd,” noted Melinda Merryweather.

“Putting the rope up just sends the wrong message,” said Don Perry. “Things have been just fine since the ranger came.”

“A rope barrier simply opens the door for potential lawsuits,” noted swimmer John Steel.

The public’s sentiment on the issue was shared by the majority of LJCPA members, including David Little who quipped, “Will there be a rope separating me from the sharks?”

There were two dissenting voices on the LJCPA board, though.

“The rope is just a visual guideline for the safety of the public,” said Jim Fitzgerald. “As long as there is joint use, you need to protect people from wild animals, particularly children, whose tendency is to get close.”

Reacting to testimony at the meeting about pro-seal activists harassing beach users, LJCPA board member Ray Weiss noted, “Everyone who speaks ou