Seals barrier installed despite appeal

Despite an appeal filed by a diver seeking to block a rope barrier going up at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool to separate humans from seals during their pupping season, the rope was installed Dec. 17.

“Based upon advice of the City Attorney’s Office, early this morning Park and Recreation Department staff placed the rope barrier at the Children’s Pool as an ‘emergency’ action while the permitting process continues,” explained Stacy LoMedico, park and recreation director, in an e-mail.

“Several years ago, the City Council directed the city manager to place an annual rope barrier at Children’s Pool during the seal pupping season (Dec. 15 through May 15) to protect the public and the seal colony during this period when seals have heightened vulnerability and mother seals may display greater aggression if disturbed or harassed,” LoMedico wrote.

She added that, in November, Park and Recreation Department staff via the Development Services Department began the process of securing a Coastal Development Permit, which is required prior to the placement of the rope.

“The permit was heard by a hearing officer on Dec. 2, 2009 and was approved,” LoMedico said. “On Dec. 7, a member of the public filed an appeal of that decision with the Development Services Department. The filing of an appeal requires the permit now be heard by the City Planning Commission. The matter is targeted to be heard before the Commission at their Jan. 21, 2010, meeting.”

Diver John Leek earlier this week said he filed the $100 appeal challenging placement of the rope barrier because “It’s illegal, they don’t have a coastal permit, it’s unnecessary; seals have got federal protection.”

The seal pupping rope challenge follows in the wake of Judge Timothy Taylor’s Nov. 13 decision not to disperse the harbor seals or dredge sand at Children’s Pool.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said it was “my call” to put up the rope barrier, adding he made his decision with public safety in mind. He said the legal analysis required an “emergency situation” with a “carefully limited” response.

“The rope barrier has been a way to ensure safety for the public and law enforcement has looked at it as a very helpful tool, a guideline, to allow shared use of the beach,” Goldsmith said.

“My role is public safety, and to maintain the status quo. Right now the beach is jointly used. That’s the status quo. I’m just trying to keep peace,” he said.

Goldsmith added the pool rope barrier is being put up “temporarily while the appeal process is being completed.” He said the rope barrier would come down “if for some reason there is no permit granted.”