Lifeguards: New signs may help with kayak control

Lifeguards think they have at least one idea that will help with issues surrounding the abundance of kayaks at La Jolla Shores.

They’re preparing to post signs reinforcing an existing kayak ban in a swim area from the foot of Roseland Drive north past the main lifeguard tower where a swimmer was injured in a collision with a kayak.

“The purpose of the signs is simply to remind people of the already existing law that you can’t launch or land boats or kayaks from any swim area,” said Lifeguard Capt. Rick Wurts. “The only place where you can is from the boat launch.”

They are negotiating with the city’s Parks Department to come up with wording and a timetable for putting in the new kayak warning signs. Wurts added that lifeguards also plan to increase patrols at the end of the beach where the new signs will be posted.

Evolving strategy

“We’ve had an increase in the number of incidents in that area that is causing us to come up with a more detailed strategy for dealing with the phenomenon,” Wurts added.

The latest move to post signs is in part a reaction to an incident on July 31 near the Marine Room when Rancho Santa Fe resident Leslie Freedle-Boren, who works in La Jolla, was hurt.

“My son and I were about 20 feet apart and this kayak came in between us and hit me in the face as I was swimming, knocking two of my teeth out and shoving three of my top teeth through my bottom lip,” said Freedle-Boren.

Deadline nears

In light of the increasing popularity of kayaking at the Shores where the city’s only oceanfront launch ramp exists, city officials have been working with kayak operators to figure out a way to limit the number of group tours and individual kayak rentals allowed on busy summer weekends.

They are in the midst of a Request For Proposal (RFP) process with a deadline on Nov. 14 for operators to submit applications for the bid process to get a shot at the 54 weekend time slots the city plans to grant.

“The consensus is something needs to be done,” said John Metzger of OEX Dive & Kayak at 2158 Avenida de la Playa, one of the existing licensed Shores kayak operators. “But it’s a complex situation.”

Rather than a bidding process, Metzger has proposed an alternative for restricting kayaks.

Another plan

“I would like to see monies paid into the (city’s) general fund end up back here in La Jolla,” he said. “Currently, we’re paying $500 a month. The city wants us to pay $500 a month, or 8 percent of our gross, whichever is greater. Talking with kayak operators, most of them would rather see a registration fee per boat.”

Also on the kayak front, Rod Watkins, a kayak operator working out of Mission Bay hotels at La Jolla Shores who is challenging the city’s legal right to charge kayak operators fees to use public beaches, has a Dec. 1 court date in his suit against the city.

“We discovered, according to an 1857 Superior Court decision, that the city of San Diego does not own the tidelands, the state of California owns them,” claimed Watkins. “For over 150 years, the city has been making policy decisions that are illegal, but has been getting away with it because nobody has every challenged them. The city is definitely going to lose this case.”