At dawn on August 11, City of San Diego workers were in Point La Jolla installing “Closed Zone” signs, a plastic barrier filled with water, and a chain through the stairs. access to the cliff to begin a temporary closure of the area. The closure, intended to keep people away from sea lions that rest at Point La Jolla, will be in effect until September 15.
Point La Jolla is a rocky area between La Jolla Cove Beach and Boomer Beach where sea lions often go ashore to rest. It is also a sea lion calving area where the calving season is recognized from June 1 to October 31.
City spokesman Tim Graham said the city was granted a temporary emergency closure permit on August 10 and crews were on site before dawn the next morning.
The permit application was filed by the San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation with the city’s Department of Developmental Services – which oversees coastal development permits such as the one needed to temporarily close the area – on August 3 after months of disturbing, and in a few hurtful cases, beach attendants’ reports of sea lions and puppies. Graham said Development Services examined the potential environmental effects of a K-weighted rail on the cliff face and determined that there would be no significant impact.
“The closed area is made up of both sand and cliffs and is bordered by the beach access stairs to the north, the concrete wall along the promenade to the east and a plastic barrier to the south. located about 25 feet from the end of the metal. railing along Boomer Beach, ”Graham said. On the south side of the plastic barrier is a small path that leads to Boomer Beach.
“The idea is to keep the bodysurf area open,” he said. If there were to be interactions between humans and sea lions, “we will have two rangers [stationed there] who might get involved.
“The closure is intended to protect both the public and the sea lions during calving season, a sensitive time during which sea lions are born and learn to swim,” he said. “Sea lions, especially mothers who breastfeed and feed their young, can become aggressive and cause bodily harm when they feel threatened by visitors who come too close. “
In June, the Sierra Club Seal Society and Sierra Club San Diego called on Mayor Todd Gloria to declare an emergency and temporarily close Point La Jolla to the public during sea lion calving season while keeping the area safe. observation of an adjacent open wall.
Rather than pursue a closure, the city posted signage at the entrance to Point La Jolla and Boomer Beach in early July. Some signs say “Stay back: sea lion calving area”. Others warn that sea lions can bite and harassing them is against the law. Stencils placed on the garbage cans, the sidewalk and the small wall bordering Point La Jolla read “Keep away from mothers or puppies” and “Keep away from sea lions”.
At the August 5 meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, Councilor Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said that a public education campaign on “responsible tourism” and the signaling program were “not particularly effective” and that the city had decided to take “more assertive measures”.
“The action that has been taken… is the evolution of several attempts to control activities there at Point La Jolla in relation to sea lions,” said LaCava. “Yet people still go to the sea lions, put their children next to them, take selfies with them. “
Beach access advocates have called the idea of the closure a “city mistake” and said Point La Jolla is an important area for divers.
Representatives from animal rights groups said they supported the closure and believed it could be a model for any future closure.
After September 15, when the shutdown is to be lifted, the city “will follow a more methodical open process to discuss with the community what kind of long-term program we might consider,” said LaCava.
In 2014, the city decided to close the nearby children’s pool beach during the annual harbor seal whelping season from mid-December to mid-May by means of a chain barrier across the stairs. intermediate level. The rest of the year, a rope barrier is in place as a visual deterrent to keep people away from harbor seals. ??