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Council panel takes on La Jolla seals issue

BY DAVE SCHWAB

Staff Writer

Asked to make it illegal to access La Jolla’s Children’s Pool during pupping season, keep the pool’s rope barrier up year-round or declare the pool a marine mammal park, a City Council Committee March 17 chose none of the above.

Neither seal supporters nor beach-access proponents came away pleased with the inaction of the City Council’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee, which stalemated 2-2 on two separate votes.

One vote was to decide whether or not to restrict access to the pool during harbor seals’ Dec. 15 to May 15 pupping season, then forward that recommendation on to the full City Council. The other was to create a long-term, broad-based task force to sort through all the legal and political implications of turning the pool into a wildlife sanctuary.

Both votes saw First District City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner representing La Jolla and Fifth District Councilman Carl DeMaio on one side, and committee chair Donna Frye of District 6 and Marti Emerald of District 7 on the other.

Following lengthy public debate, Lightner said it was “premature” to select any of the three proposals put before the committee without staff analysis and a thorough vetting of the proposals by La Jolla community advisory groups.

“I do get the whole idea of having a long-term management plan to protect the seals,” said Lightner. “But we need to balance that protection with preserving public access for beachgoers.”

Lighter instead presented a “laundry list” of issues she said she’d like to see addressed with the pool by staff, everything from defining exactly what a marine mammal park is, to determining the city’s legal obligations in managing it to assessing how city municipal codes and the pool’s trust status would be impacted by it.

DeMaio said he couldn’t come to a “thoughtful” decision without a full staff report on the proposals.

Emerald stressed the pupping-season issue should be dealt with promptly by the full Council so it could take effect before the season ends in two months.

Frye agreed that Lightner raised several good points, but cautioned against inordinately extending analysis of issues relating to the pool which she noted have been debated for years.

“We’re no further along than we were when you entered the room today,” said an exasperated Frye after the second deadlocked committee vote.