La Jolla Light StaffSan Diego Mayor Bob Filner has closed La Jolla’s Children’s Pool at nighttime.
The beach and adjacent seawall will now be closed from sunset to sunrise until May 15, the end of the seals’ pupping season, the
La Jolla Lighthas learned.
A seal camera recently installed allowing the public to view seal births remotely has captured video of people harassing the seals, said the mayor’s office. This prompted Filner to swiftly close the beach at night via an emergency coastal development permit, which allows him to close the beach for 60 days while the permit is being processed. The permit application was filed by the city’s Park and Recreation Department.
“I felt it was important to take this step after evidence of individuals seen on video tape, harassing, taunting and causing stress to the seals at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla,” Filner said in a prepared statement.
At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, March 21 about two dozen people walking along the seawall and another two dozen on the sand heard the park ranger announce: “Please folks, come off the seawall. We’re going to be securing the seawall shortly and closing the beach.”
On March 21, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith issued the following statement regarding the closure:
“Although I would have preferred to have been consulted before he took this action, I agree that protecting the seals is important. As such, this office will vigorously defend the Mayor’s action in this matter.
“Seal opponents have notified our office that they will seek an injunction on April 12 as to this order and the Mayor’s prior order to lengthen the guide rope at the beach. We will vigorously defend the City and have already
defeated the plaintiff’s motionfor a temporary restraining order.
“I have seen the videos of the seal abuse and I am appalled. Once we receive information as to the identity of these perpetrators, they will be brought to justice.
“I urge everyone to obey the signs on the beach closure, because this office fully intends to enforce the law.”
California Coastal Commission (CCC) staff analyst Kanani Brown told the
Lightthe CCC is aware of the city’s emergency permit filing, though she said the city had not yet sent the CCC an official notice of its action.
“The city has the authority to issue an emergency permit in certain instances, such as this, when there’s an emergency — and in this case it’s clear that the seals are at risk,” Brown said.
However, she noted, because the Children’s Pool is located entirely within a coastal zone, it is entirely within the CCC’s jurisdiction to issue coastal development permits.
“The city may issue an emergency permit, but it may not be completely effective because the sandy beach areas are within the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction,” Brown said. Brown said the CCC could contest the permit, but said it’s something the agency “will not pursue, given other priorities and limited staff, as well as the short-term duration of the permit.
“And the intent of the city’s action is resource protection,” Brown added, noting that it is clear … from the video documentation that the emergency permit “may be warranted, since this is pupping season and the seals that are hauled out now include pregnant seals and seal pups.”
Capt. Brian Ahearn of San Diego Police’s Northern Division said he added a police officer to monitor Children’s Pool 24 hours a day, seven days per week, once video surfaced of the seals allegedly being kicked and punched.
Ahearn said the plan is to eventually transition to using a private security company to monitor Children’s Pool. The security officers would be trained by Park and Recreation staff, in conjunction with SDPD.
“We’re waiting to find out who the private security company will be and then begin training with Park and Rec,” Ahearn said. “It will be a slow transition. … We won’t carry it out beyond (the pupping season) unless anything changes.”
The organization Friends of the Children’s Pool, the beach access proponents seeking the April 12 injunction, responded to the mayor’s beach closure via a release referencing San Diego Municipal Code, which states that “all emergency Coastal Development Permits shall authorize only the minimum necessary to stabilize the emergency.” The group questions why the beach closure is necessary when there is already a police officer stationed at Children’s Pool round-the-clock.
• SEE PREVIOUS STORY and VIDEOabout the La Jolla’s Children’s Pool and seals being harassed while caught on video at