Shark sightings, street repairs of concern to La Jolla Shores board

Between a shark sighting that closed the beach, a respite from the Avenida de la Playa construction projects, and residents working to prevent illegal camping in Kellogg park, the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) got an earful during its Sept. 9 meeting.

As part of a lengthy presentation on summer activities, San Diego lifeguard Lt. Rich Stropky answered questions about a shark sighting that took place Aug. 29 off La Jolla Shores in which an 8- to 10-foot Hammerhead Shark was spotted near some kayakers. He explained the protocol that led to the beach closure. A second Hammerhead sighting on Aug. 30 prompted an advisory, but the beach remained open.

When processing reports of a shark sighting, Stropky said, “We have to determine if it’s a possible shark sighting, confirmed shark sighting or a shark attack.” The Aug. 29 sighting was confirmed when a kayaker recorded the shark circling the group and showed footage to the lifeguards.

“the reports were that the shark was displaying aggressive behavior, (by swimming in a) circling motion around the kayaks and reportedly the shark bumped the kayak twice,” he said. “We talked to the experts at Scripps, who confirmed this was considered aggressive behavior. per our policy ... we closed the beach one mile in each direction.”

An additional factor in determining whether to impose a beach closure or simply an advisory is the size of the shark, once confirmed. “Anything 8 feet or greater is considered capable of human harm,” he said. “If there is a threat to human life, we will absolutely take action. If we see the situation as a threat and the experts see it as a threat, we go to closures.”

During the Aug. 30 sighting, a smaller Hammerhead was spotted, but it did not display aggressive behavior. Stropky said it took a dive and did not resurface after being seen. Due to its size and behavior, the second sighting did not prompt a closure.

On Aug. 29, kayakers were fishing and bleeding out their fish one-and-a-half to two miles offshore, Stropky said, “basically chumming these sharks.” He added that when there are bloody fish onboard a kayak, the blood seeps to the bottom, which has through-holes, so there is the constant flushing of water — and getting blood into the water.

“If the fishermen continue to chum the sharks and lure them in (by kayaking into the swimming area for the shark to follow), that’s a concern for us,” he said, adding that lifeguards have been handing out fliers to fishermen at the boat launch that ask “if they go out fishing, they bleed out the fish offshore and put the game in a bag, so there is no dripping and no mess, then wait 15 minutes before they come in to de-scent the boat.”

The shark sightings took place the weekend before Labor Day — always a busy time for lifeguards. Over the three-day holiday, approximately 450,000 people visited San Diego’s beaches, and Stropky said there were 8,000 preventative acts, 192 medical aids and 655 rescues. La Jolla Shores saw about 65,000 visitors over the weekend at the beach and adjacent Kellogg Park, with 1,200 preventative acts, 14 medical aids and 30 rescues.

“La Jolla took the cake as far as rescues,” he said. Although outside of LJSA purview, Stropky reported that at WindanSea beach, high surf and high attendance prompted more than 300 rescues over the three days.

“Labor Day marks the end of summer for lifeguards, but Mother Nature doesn’t seem to know that, there is still warm water,” Stropky said. “The seasonal lifeguards staff will be minimized, but will be on hand until conditions improve.”

In other LJSA news:

Construction enters final phase: During the summer construction moratorium (from Memorial Day to Labor Day), Shores businesses along Avenida de la Playa got a much-appreciated break from the noise, dust and roadblocks associated with Sewer and Water Job 809.

The 809 project, which began in December 2013, involves replacing water and sewer lines on Avenida de la playa and connecting residential streets. With nearly all the work done along Avenida de la playa, the Shores main thoroughfare, City of San Diego Field engineer Steve Lindsay said the remaining work should be complete in march 2016.

“We’re back, but this will be the final episode in this (saga),” he said. “Our main work is going to be on Camino Del Oro in front of the La Jolla Shores Hotel and north up to Calle Frescota.” Other streets slated for repairs include Camino Del Sol, Camino Ribera, Calle de la Plata and Vallecitos. To hasten construction in front of the hotel, Lindsay said the contractor is requesting a 24-hour street closure. He would report whether the request was granted at a future meeting.

“We are also (repairing) additional streets at the request of the community that we didn’t work on,” he said, citing El Paseo Grande and Paseo Dorado. “The argument was that we diverted traffic from Avenida de la playa to these side streets, so the side streets have suffered and we should do some maintenance, which we are not going to argue, and that will be the last thing we’ll do.”

No camping at the park: After throngs of visitors camped illegally at Kellogg park over the Fourth of July holiday, LJSA chair Nick LeBeouf worked with police to make sure a similar occurrence did not happen over the Labor Day weekend. To address future holidays at which this might occur, LeBeouf said he and the police will create public service announcements and place temporary signage every 150 feet along the park to notify visitors about the rules. City regulations already in place dictate that tents must be transparent or see-through, and have no more than three sides down.