La Jolla Parks and Beaches board wants review of ‘seal cam’ images for relevance

By Ashley Mackin

The trustees of La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. (LJP&B) voted at their Feb. 25 meeting to pen two letters of concern to the City of San Diego regarding the new “seal cam” at Children’s Pool and the fences on the bluffs at the La Jolla Cove.

Letter No. 1

Trustee Ken Hunrichs brought photos to the meeting documenting “instances where the camera is being used for things that it is not authorized to be used for,” he said.

One showed a zoomed-in image of a person sitting on the beach with no seals in the frame. Another showed the intersection of Jenner Street and Coast Boulevard. A third showed the parking lot and stairs to Children’s Pool.

Hunrichs explained that one of the conditions of the “seal cam” permit, as stated, is “using the video camera to monitor and record seal activity on the Children’s Pool Beach.” Additionally, “the Permittee’s (WAN Conservancy) failure to restrict research activity to (seals) shall be a default of this permit, upon which the city may immediately revoke Permittee’s right of entry and terminate this permit,” he read.

“I think (the photos) show pretty clearly that the camera is being misused ... (capturing images) for something other than seal research,” he said.

The committee passed a motion, 15-0-2, to notify the city, by letter, that it has found indicators of misuse of the permit, and that “seal cam” usage should be reviewed and guidelines be established. The letter will also question why there is a link on the same page as the seal cam homepage to donate to the WAN Conservancy.

Letter No. 2

Melinda Merryweather suggested removing some of the fences at the Cove as a possible way to reduce the number of birds and seals present that cause the infamous “Cove stench.”

“The feeling is that the city was sued by somebody who went out (on the bluffs) and got hurt, so the city decided to put a fence in, so people wouldn’t walk out on that bluff anymore,” Merryweather said. However, she noted that when there was human activity, there were fewer birds and marine mammals there.

She added, “If you go just around the corner, where the people are on the bluffs all the time, there are no birds and there are no seals.”

Merryweather suggested the city remove the fencing and install a sign that advises people to climb or walk on the rocks at their own risk, to avoid any responsibility, should someone get injured.

Jane Reldan, a physician and seal advocate, said she did not see this as a safe option. Reldan said if foot traffic were to knock all the nutrients off the cliff at once, it would create an “algae bloom” that people would have to swim through.

Merryweather countered that an algae bloom happens often when the surf gets large enough. She said she believes eight businesses have gone out of business along Prospect Street because of the stench. “I think the solution to getting rid of that awful smell at the Cove is to open the fence back up, put a sign up there that says ‘go on the rocks at your own risk’ ... and that would be the answer to it.”

The motion to write a letter to the city suggesting Merryweather’s solution passed 13-1-2.

In other LJP&B news

Website designer:

Chairman Dan Allen presented his report, which included the request for a volunteer to create a LJP&B website.

Currently, information about the committee (agendas and meeting dates) can only be found on the La Jolla Community Planning Association website, and there is just a mention of LJP&B on the La Jolla Town Council website.

“If we have anybody who knows anybody who can help us with a webpage, it’s not that much of an expense, but it does involve some work,” Allen said, adding he would like to get a LJP&B website up soon.

Meeting date:

The board will hold its May meeting on June 3, to avoid a meeting on Memorial Day. The LJP&B typically meets the fourth Monday of the month at 4 p.m. at the La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St.