Planning Commission takes no action on Children’s Pool after public hearing, closed session

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Planning Commissioners had no comment to make on reconsidering making the rope barrier at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool permanent following public testimony and a closed-session hearing today.

The contentious issue of whether to extend the rope barrier at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool from seasonal to year-round has been bouncing back and forth between legal and legislative venues.

Last December, the Planning Commission overruled an earlier City Council decision supporting having the rope barrier up at Children’s Pool as a permanent visual guideline to protect the marine mammals. In its decision, the Planning Commission agreed with the contention that, though mostly visual, the rope does serve as a barrier discouraging public beach access.

Attorney Bryan Pease, an animal rights activist, then filed a legal challenge seeking to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Foster in July sent the contentious issue of whether to make the rope barrier permanent at Children’s Pool back to the city Planning Commission. She asked Commissioners to clarify what constitutes “encroachment,” noting the Commission’s decision that the rope barrier does not constitute encroachment during the marine mammals’ Dec. 15 to May 15 pupping season — but does constitute encroachment the rest of the time — is inconsistent.

During the Planning Commission’s Aug. 4 public hearing, Ken Hunrichs contended the Children’s Pool rope barrier violates the spirit and intent of the California Coastal Act.

“The goal of the Coastal Act is to maximize public access to our beaches,” he said. “Any development proposed in a public area on a beach cannot encroach upon that access. A rope barrier is an encroachment and violation of the Coastal Act.”

Ellen Shively, president of La Jolla Friends of the Seals, countered Hunrichs’ argument noting, “He left out that the California Coastal Act requires that any development has to consider the natural habitat, that’s a very important omission,” she said adding the rope is only a guideline. “The rope is not a barrier,” she said. “You can go over and around the rope.”

“You’ve been told this is not a legal matter but a political one,” said Phyllis Minick. “That does not change the fact that all government agencies are charged with protecting citizens’ freedom and upholding basic Constitutional rights. Yours was the lawful, honorable and correct decision to uphold citizens’ freedom of access at Children’s Pool.”

“You are responsible for following the federal guidelines of the Marine Mammal Protection Act protecting the seals,” testified Shannon Player. “They do have an established habitat at the beach.”