Some La Jollans want Cove guardrail removed


■ To keep the Cove cliffs clean, it’s suggested people be allowed back on the rocks

By Ashley Mackin

The May 28 cleanup process initiated by Mayor Bob Filner to remove the odoriferous excrement from the bluff at the Cove, has some La jollans opining that the next step is for the city to remove the protective rail there, which would allow human access to the cliffs and deter animals (and their waste) from coming back.

“Just take the damn gate down, let the people go back on the bluffs. The animals will find (another) place to go,” said lifelong La jollan, Melinda Merryweather.

She said in the past, the rail had openings for people to get through to walk down, and she and her friends would sit on the rocks all the time. “no one that I ever knew got hurt and we were on there for years,” she said. “Why is it that for years and years it was safe for people to go there (and now it’s not)? I think it should be open to the public.”

Mike O’Hare, a retired lifeguard and La jolla resident of 60 years, confirmed that at one time, the rail had eight openings and because of the human presence, there were no animals on the cliffs — and no smell. “You get rid of the animals, you get rid of the smell,” O’Hare said. “The city created this problem and the only way they are going to cure it, and not just attack the symptoms, is to open the rail and let people down there.”

O’Hare said he was involved in the rescue that led to the rail being closed off. He said in the late 1970s, during the La Jolla Rough Water Swim, a cement platform was installed to support a diving board. When the swim was over, the diving board was removed, but the platform remained. O’Hare said in the 1970s, an intoxicated man jumped off the rocks and hit the platform, breaking his neck. The man was resuscitated, but was paralyzed from the neck down. “He sued the city, saying that platform was an attractive hazard for him to be down on the rocks and was awarded $1.6 million,” O’Hare said.

Immediately after the suit was settled, the City of San Diego removed the cement platform and closed the rail.

Merryweather said installing a “travel at your own risk” sign would have been a better solution — the city would avoid liability and the sign could be implemented today.

O’Hare suggested another solution for the city to consider. He said one option is to place a small rail toward the bottom of the bluffs, so people could walk down and prevent the animals from returning, but still have some barrier to prevent anyone from falling.

By closing the bluffs, Merryweather said, “(The city is) closing off public access to the bluffs or the beach and you can’t do that. Part of our community plan, being a coastal city, is you have to encourage beach access as much as possible. That’s what we are trusted to do.

“The idea that we have this small little precious place that we have allowed to be given up to animals at the cost of people is becoming ridiculous. There were never sea lions there and there were never those birds there.”

O’Hare also recalled a time when there were no animals on the Cove cliffs, stating that this changed with the rail installation. He said he recently counted 550 sea lions at the Cove.

The decision to close or open an area like the Cove bluffs must come from the Department of Park and Rec, with buy- in from the mayor’s office. Such decisions are rendered on a case-by-case basis.

neither the mayor’s office nor the DPR responded by deadline as to whether rail removal was up for discussion.