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La Jolla Friends of the Seals
(C) LJFS and Liesl Schindler

Background and Controversy - Latest Casa Beach News

September 12, 2013
We had a major breakthrough today!

The SD Planning Commission approved the beach closure during pupping season. It wasn't an easy win, since they are all about beach access rights, but despite their reservations, we won approval of 4 of the 6 commissioners. Thank you to everyone who came to speak or cede their time in support! Next, we go to the City Council and then Coastal Commission, which should be much easier to win approval, as we already have their support.

Let's all stay positive and inspired. We have a come a long way and the end goal is in sight! :-)

May 15, 2013
Rope to remain at Casa Beach round the clock for three years.

Up until the last minute, we weren’t sure if the recommendation by the California Coastal Commission last July to give the rope at Casa Beach a three year trial would come into effect, but the final green light was given last week - and the rope stays up at the beach year round.

This is great news for pro seal advocates who have watched the effect of the rope during pupping season improve the safety net for the new seal mothers and young pups. Other than the two young women caught abusing a new mother and pup which caught world wide attention, most visitors have cooperated by staying behind the rope line to enjoy recreational "seal watching". Closing the beach from dusk to dawn also helped to allow a successful breeding season.

According to Jerry Horna, our past LJFS president, "Post pupping season the beach is VERY important to the recuperating mothers that have been on basically a starvation diet while they nurse, and the pups that are on their own (for the first time) Their survival depends on being able to eat and get out of the water so they can store calories as blubber. The restring period on the beach in Summer is very important to the mothers and weaned pups especially."

The retention of the rope was accompanied by a few caveats, particularly the requirement for monitoring the effects by taking periodic seal counts at least for 16 days out of each month for the three years. The count responsibility is under the guidance of the lifeguards, the ranger or their designated help.

We are continuing to help with monitoring of the earth camera which is beamed on the entire beach for 24 hours per day every day. If you live locally and are willing to volunteer for camera duty, please contact us: Info@lajollafriendsoftheseals.org.

The city is also gearing up the city sponsored docent program at Casa Beach. It will be designed to inform visitors of the unique nature of Casa Beach and the entire ecosystem. Opportunities to volunteer for this program will be announced by the city soon.

April 26, 2013 - Docent Report (click on pictures for larger view)

It was a lovely day at the beach today. A ranger was there when I arrived. His name is Parish and he said he is the regular Friday ranger. He was actively on the job and friendly.

There was a sea lion pup on the rocks by the seawall. It is very thin but not a newborn.  It has a bright blue fishing fly in its front flipper. It slept most of the time, but did get up and take a swim, harassed some seals on the beach and then returned to the rocks. The ranger said it had been reported earlier in the day. I watched, hoping it would separate itself from the seals so I could call SW, but it did not.

There was a flush of about 45 seals around 2:15 when a diver went into the water. Only a few (5-6) seals returned. It seems most went to the rocks beyond the seawall. Startled seagulls added to the flush.

There was another small flush (15) about 3:00 when another diver entered the water. There were not many seals on the beach at that time, so the flush was small.

It was very exciting (not sure that is the correct word) to watch 2 seals actually mating in the water. They carried on for 40 minutes and ended with the male mounting the female from behind. He was all set to mate. The ranger and I both were amazed to watch this happen so close to us. Many visitors on the seawall were watching as well. After the death of the old seal earlier in the week, I feel I have seen the cycle of life come full circle. I love the seals!

April 19, 2013
"Seals on La Jolla beach win another court round..." LA Times

A judge Thursday turned down a request to shorten the rope barrier meant to protect the marine mammals from being harassed by the public. READ MORE

April 14, 2013
It is with a great sense of peace and happiness that I write to let you know that Animal Protection and Rescue League Attorney Bryan Pease, along with Deputy City Attorney George Schaeffer, successfully convinced Judge Joel Pressman in court on 4/12/13 to rule in favor of the year-round 152 foot rope at Casa Beach, AKA Children's Pool Beach, AKA CPB.

"All right now colony, all together: One, two, three, four, who do we appreciate: The Mayor, The Mayor, The Mayor."

This decision ensures that the 152 foot rope will remain in place until July of 2015. At that time the California Coastal Commission will review the conditions placed on the City, including monitoring. We started monitoring 8/31/12 and continue to enter data that has been sent to both NOAA and the California Coastal Commission. In 2015, if the California Coastal Commission deems that all their conditions have been met, they hopefully will approve the 152 foot year-round rope in perpetuity.

The monitoring data already shows that on weekends, there are consistently FEWER seals at CPB. The weekends are when the professional harassers, who want the seals removed from the beach, are present with their disinformation signs and umbrellas on the seaward side of the rope.

You can let the city government know of your support by sending an email to Mayor Bob Filner: bobfilner@sandiego.gov congratulating him on the positive outcome for the City in this court decision. Please copy your email to your city council member and also to me: jreldan@san.rr.com

District 1
Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner
Email: sherrilightner@sandiego.gov

District 2
Councilmember Kevin Faulconer
Email: kevinfaulconer@sandiego.gov

District 3
Council President Todd Gloria
Email: toddgloria@sandiego.gov

District 4
Vacant pending special runoff election due to resignation of former Councilmember Tony Young, who left January 1, 2013 to head the local chapter of the Red Cross

District 5
Councilmember Mark Kersey
Email: markkersey@sandiego.gov

District 6
Councilmember Lorie Zapf
Email: loriezapf@sandiego.gov

District 7
Councilmember Scott Sherman
Email: scottsherman@sandiego.gov

District 8
Councilmember David Alvarez
Email: davidalvarez@sandiego.gov

District 9
Councilmember Marti Emerald
Email: martiemerald@sandiego.gov

Thank you for all of your support!

Gratefully yours,
Jane Reldan MD
La Jolla Friends of the Seals

March 19, 2013
Mayor Bob Filner Protects the Seals and Closes the Children's Pool at Night! Read about it HERE! Let's all email Mayor Filner to THANK him: bobfilner@sandiego.gov

February 21, 2013
Year Round Rope Finally A Reality
Yesterday the City of San Diego stated that its Planning Commission erred in rejecting a permit for a year-round rope at the Children's Pool Beach in La Jolla. We would like to thank the City Council and the City Attorney for their decision to uphold the rope and provide meaningful shared access at the beach. Historically this beach was used by seals but as they were hunted to near extinction they disappeared from La Jolla and most other locations. After the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, the seals started to re-appear at CPB in the 1980's. For the last decade people who have wanted to extirpate the seals from CPB and "return it to use by people" have made it their mission to violate City, State and federal law by deliberately attempting to flush the seals from the beach.  With this decision the City has made it clear that this beach belongs to all the people, not to just a few, and to the seals as well. By supporting the decision to maintain a year-round rope, both people and seals will be able to enjoy this national treasure.

December 15, 2012
Mayor Filner promises increased monitoring at La Jolla Children’s Pool, says rope should be up year-round. If you are a friend of the seals of La Jolla (not only a member of our organization) please write an email to our new Mayor: bobfilner@sandiego.gov. Tell him you appreciate his backing for the year round rope and finding a resource to increase monitoring at the beach. Read more HERE.

September 13, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012, 10:30am (new time)

San Diego City Concourse, 2nd Floor
Silver Hall, 202 “C” Street, San Diego, CA 92101

Dear friends of the La Jolla seals,

July 11, 2012 was a great day for the La Jolla Seals, thanks to the unanimous approval by the California Coastal Commission of the year-round rope at Children's Pool Beach. The fight is not over - the seals still need you! The next hurdle is the San Diego Planning Commission Meeting on Thursday, September 27th, 2012 at 10:30am (new time) at the San Diego City Concourse Building, 202 "C" Street, 2nd Floor in downtown San Diego, just adjacent to the City Hall. Please mark this date on your calendar and plan to attend the meeting and speak on behalf of the year-round rope. Public comments in person carry significant weight with the San Diego Planning Commission. The opponents of the rope have not given up and plan to manifest a large presence at the meeting. Your attendance is crucial to the campaign in support of the year-round rope. You may choose to speak (2 minutes) or “cede” your time for our group presentation.

Another important way you can help right now is by sending an email message to the San Diego Planning Commission at planningcommission@sandiego.gov. Tell the Commissioners to approve the year-round rope at Children's Pool Beach, the same as the San Diego City Council and the California Coastal Commission did.

If you prefer, you can mail a letter postmarked by September 14th via the US Mail to:
San Diego Planning Commission
1222 First Avenue, 5th Floor, San Diego, CA 92101

Thank you for all your support.
Jane Reldan, M.D.

July 11, 2012
We Won!
The air was highly charged at the Coastal Commission hearing on the year round rope at Children's Pool Beach on July 11th. Kanani Brown of the CCC staff gave a briefing on the history, the proposal and the six Special Considerations required for passage. In the end, the vote was unanimous to approve the year round rope.

La Jolla Friends of the Seals and our supporters were prominently seated in the front rows with red and yellow stickers pasted on our shirts with the message "Approve the Year Round Rope. We also passed out fan sized signs with the identical message to our folks before they entered the auditorium to sit in a block.

Many LJFS members and friends spoke in favor and with factual information.  Dr. Jane Reldan brought copies of all the support letters sent in to the commission. There were hundreds of sample letters sent in from contacts from our data base. Many of the writers included personal notes at the bottom of the page. She also presented  the petitions which beach visitors had signed while at the CPB. Bryan Pease, our legal advocate, also presented several years of petitions collected at the table by APRL. He testified that the rope was a necessary visual cue for people to stay a distance from the seals from both a safety and a health perspective. Dr. Carol Archibald spoke of the scientific studies backing the seals need for a haul out area. She cited one study showing that when captive seals are deprived of haul out time, they will haul out longer to compensate for the deprivation. Deb Saracini provided a video showing a scene of seals being flushed off the beach by large numbers of people immediately after when the rope went down in 2010, reminding the audience that this was not an unusual scene. Laura Meldrum discussed a graph depicting the number of seals docents had recorded on our data sheets. It showed that the rope makes a difference; that the seal count was significantly lower without a rope than with a rope. Another graph showed that the average number of seals on the beach was lower in 2011 compared to 2009.  Jeanne Thoennes, Marilies Schoepflin and Ellen Shively also spoke. Prominent speakers in favor included a representative from Bob Filner's office, Donna Frye, Joe Cordaro, retired NMFS biologist in charge of the CPB, Jim Fitzgerald from the LJCPAc and John Lomac, a retired CPB lifeguard.

The opposition also came and gave their talks, with an emphasis on their desire to continue to use the beach for their recreation. The main argument made by the opposition was an attempt to persuade the panel that the rope was an unnecessary impediment to full access. One set of slides showed extreme waves inundating the beach during the winter to emphasize that this was not a suitable beach for birthing pups! The lifeguard Ed Harris tried to delay the vote to allow a six month review of a new option; that of laying down huge boulders to divide the beach according to the seasons. His idea was that seals could use 75% the beach for pupping, but only needed 25% during the summer months when it is a popular swimming beach. The boulders would then be reconfigured twice a year by lifeguards!

The commissioners discussion after the public comments were interesting. Several commented that the real problem was not beach access or the seals, but the conflict between people with different goals. The general feeling was that the rope would not solve the problem, but that it was a step in the right direction. One commissioner wondered why it had been passed up to them since it seemed to be a city management responsibility.

When all was said and done, and everyone was pretty tired as it was the last item of the day, the vote was unanimously in favor of the rope. We can only hope that whatever hurdles remain in place to implement the policy by the city will be accomplished speedily so that the present daily level of harassment will be reduced for the seals.

Thanks go to all of us for standing up for the seals for so long, but Dr. Reldan’s contribution has been outstanding for underwriting and tirelessly organizing the campaign. Without her stepping up these last few months, the outcome could have been very different. Thanks everyone for your letters and support!

March 28, 2012
Seals are being Disturbed
The disturbances caused by uninformed and intentionally thoughtless people continues at Casa Beach in spite of the presence of a Ranger assigned there five days a week. The large gap in the rope line is just at the bottom of the stairs, so people unwittingly head straight for the seals. We have been informing the authorities of the danger to the colony with little to no response. You can see the results in the viedo below by Andrea Hahn.

The question is: is this rookery in danger of being destroyed by the people that are all over the beach and not letting the seals and pups come onto the sand? We don't know yet how adaptive these animals can be especially with the pupping season in full progress.

March 12, 2012
Funding for Beach Closure During Pupping Season OK'ed By City Council
On Monday, March 12th, the San Diego City Council voted 6-0  for the $30,000 needed to fund the costs required to obtain legal permits to close the Children's Pool during pupping season. The City Council had voted in May of 2010 to enact this measure, and had been given an estimate of between $25,000 to $50,000. However the existing budget didn't cover the cost. As a consequence, nothing was done until the La Jolla Friends of the Seals, a docent group dedicated to educating the public about the seals, engaged animal activist lawyer Bryan Pease to sue the city. Mr. Pease and the City Attorney, Jan Goldsmith agreed to insert the request for funding  within a mid-year city budget amendment which was being heard by the council. Fortunately, the financial outlook for the city has improved and Mayor Jerry Sanders claimed that there was a budget surplus for many projects which had been placed on hold.

The Parks and Recreation director, Stacey LoMedico assured our group that the processing of the permits has already been started. It is unknown how long the approvals will take, but it is not likely to be in place in time for this pupping season. Dr Jane Rendan asked that the Mayor declare an emergency to keep the rope up after the end of pupping season to give the animals a chance for some space on the beach until the next issue, that of a year round rope, is heard by the California Coastal Commission in July. There has been no commitment from the Mayor so far.

One testimony during the March council hearing has La Jolla Friends of the Seals concerned. The head lifeguard testified that the seals were having an explosive population growth, even spilling over onto South Casa Beach. We know this to be unscientific and simply not true. Of the 41 births so far, there have been 9 deaths. Seals which have been seen on South Casa Beach have probably been disturbed by the continual disturbance from the few anti-seal protesters who continue to place "Open Beach" signs and umbrellas at Casa Beach to encourage visitors, who probably have no clue that they are disturbing the nursing, nurturing process, to cross over the rope line to get too close to the resting seal colony.

If you are reading this as a visitor, or someone not aware of the impact of getting too close to the beached seals, please be aware that the city has placed the rope  to encourage visitors to stay behind the line to give the seals a buffer of safety. The NOAA guidelines suggest people stay 100 ft. away from seals while they are on land. And during pupping season, this is so much more vital that the seals feel safe and secure to raise the young.

Stay Tuned!!!

February 3, 2012
Deal May Start 5-month Beach Closure for Seals
by Mike Lee, U-T
The La Jolla Friends of the Seals recent lawsuit brought this to light. The papers filed by us in the Superior Court stated that the city council's 2010 resolution that would prevent public access during pupping season at Children's Pool still needs to be funded. A proposal for funding will go to the City Council this March. The costs include fees for the appropriate reviews and permits required. It's estimated to cost between $25,000 to $50,000 - mostly internal tracking of staff time rather than actual outgo from the city.

Bryan Pease, our lawyer, said "The process is taking a lot longer that it's supposed to, but at least it's back under way as opposed to just being permanently stalled".

How you can help:
Please call your City Council person, urging them to vote for this proposal to allocate the funds necessary to pay for processing the reviews and permits that would permit the Children's Pool closure during pupping season from Dec. 15th to May 15th each year.

Remind them that the seal mothers and pups need a safe and secure place for that important time. The dialogue to be something like: "Hello Council Member _________.

"The San Diego City Council will vote in March to approve funding to close the Children's Pool beach during the pupping season. I urge you to vote for this item in the revised budget. San Diego's  harbor seals pupping season is between December 15 to  May 15. It is vital that the seals have protection from humans intrusion to give mothers and pups a safe and secure place to bring up their young during these crucial months. A closed beach would provide this. "

And please come down to see this wonderful event that is happening right now. We have two pups so far....and we are expecting many more.

District 1 - Sherri Lightner -619-236-6611

District 2 - Kevin Faulconer - 619-236-6622

District 3 - Todd Gloria - 619-236-6633

District 4 - Anthony Young - 619-236-6644

District 5 - Carl DeMaio - 619-236-6655

District 6 - Lorie Zapf - 619-236-6616

District 7 - Marti Emerald - 236-6677

District 8 - David Alvarez - 236-6688

Thanks for your help everybody.

January 6, 2012
Lawsuit Filed
Bryan Pease, APRL attorney and seal advocate filed a lawsuit with LJFS as co-plaintiff against the City of San Diego and Mayor Sanders to keep pressure on the mayor's office to take action on the city council's beach closure during pupping season resolution passed in May 2010, which he signed, but then failed to provide funding for in his budget. This despite the council resolution approving the cost of up to $50K to obtain permits. The estimated cost is internal between city departments for staff time - people who are on salary anyway! There is no outside cost really. Yet, the mayor was able to find $70K to hire the Ranger that Councilperson from La Jolla  Sherri Lightner wanted. The San Diego Foundation's 2011 Report indicated her desire for a Ranger is to "protect beach access"!! This in the face of the constant disruption of the seal rookery during the latter months of pregnancy and through the weaning season.

We should keep demanding beach closure from National Marine Fishing Service on the basis that only the federal gov't. can cut through the red tape to support what the local gov't. already voted for. Let Monica.DeAngelis@Noaa.gov know you support this.

The goal of the lawsuit would be to require the mayor to do his job and implement the resolution passed by the City council that he signed. I think this lawsuit can really crystallize for the public what's going on here though, which is that a resolution was passed and then ignored.

“Ethics is knowing the difference between knowing what you have the right to do and what is right to do.” Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart

December 19, 2011
Escalation of Conflict between Opposing Groups at Children's Pool
Bitterness and accelerated antagonism has escalated at Children's Pool in La Jolla ever since the city erected a rope across the beach for pupping season on December 15th. One group, La Jolla Friends of the Seals and the Animal Protraction and Rescue League asks visitors to stay on the dry side to allow the distance needed for the seals to have freedom of movement around the better portion of the beach. The dissidents, composed mainly of a few spearfishermen, divers and those people afraid of losing full access to the beach, held a large BBQ/party on the wet side of the rope last Saturday to display their objections.

The rope is understood to be a guideline to respect the late pregnancy female seals need for space and has never closed off the beach. The divers have persuaded the City to shorten the length of the rope barrier, thus opening up more easy access to full beach use advocates and unaware visitors. There have already been three early pup deaths this year, probably due to the stress of the resulting frequent harassment and excessive proximity of too many people all during the day and night.

Please Help!

  1. Go to "Save La Jolla Seals" Facebook page and look at the most recent posts from the past few days.
  2. Call City Attorney Jan Goldsmith at 619-236-6220; Mayor Jerry Sanders at 619-236-6330 or City Council President Tony Young at 619-236-6440. Tell them that the pregnant seals are in jeopardy this pupping season and to close the beach as an emergency measure.

To summarize what you will see there, the situation at the beach is dire!

If you go to the beach and see any evidence of anyone disturbing a seal, (flushing, getting too close, allowing children to frighten them, excessive photos using a flash, throwing things at them, etc.) please write a letter telling of the failure of the City's "shared use" policy to the editor of the Union Tribune Letters@uniontrib.com or one of the La Jolla papers; susandemaggio@lajollalight.com or LJVN@sdnews.com.
Suggest that closing the beach at night would be a fair solution if people continue to insist on their right (forget their responsibility) to use the beach during this vulnerable time of the pupping season

December 15, 2011
Rope Barrier Goes Up for Pupping Season
Bryan Peace, our long standing pro bono lawyer called a Press Conference on the first day of the erection of the rope barrier at Children's Pool, December 15th. The press turned out in full force, with cameras whirring from Channels 5, 6, 8, 10, 15 and the La Jolla Light. Bryan discussed the political "hot potato" the issue of the rope has been. He asked people to stay behind the rope line to give the seals some protection from the public during this late term pregnancy period and through the birth of the last viable pups, and for a month afterward to give the mothers and pups time to nurse, bond and wean after a short six weeks.

Brian confirmed that the City Council had voted in May of 2010 to close the beach during pupping season, but that the follow through had stalled due to red tape and a lack of funding in the city coffers. Development Services has estimated that the closure permits and staff time would be an estimated $25,000 to $50,000., which has not been funded. When the pupping season ends, the rope is liable to be removed unless the California Coastal Commission hearing, scheduled for early March, authorizes the year round rope as approved by the City Council at the same time as the pupping season rope. It was a beautiful day and the sight of an empty beach with about 30 seals sleeping peacefully was a memorable sight.

More Pictures HERE

November 7, 2011
Shark Education - Let's Educate Ourselves

  1. We have lots of sharks in San Diego, MOST of them do not eat Red Meat, they eat fish. Leopard sharks, that habit the cove and can be over 6 feet, have a mouth like a catfish, no real teeth to "bite" with, they suck food off the bottom. They make look scary but they are not going to eat you.
  2. Sharks are mostly prey specific, they don't just eat anything unless they are starving.
  3. Great White sharks do not begin to eat mammals until they are almost mature, at 12-13 years of age, and about 12-13 feet long. We have immature Great Whites in the waters off of So Cal, they eat fish. Again they look scary, but they eat fish.
  4. Great Whites are ambush predators, they attack from depth, from below, they do not cruise around at the surface.
  5. Dolphins breath air, they have to surface regularly, they are big 6-10 feet, have a large fin, and we have lots of them in San Diego, I see them almost every time I'm surfing.
  6. Great Whites eat Tuna, other large fish and marine mammals, It does not make sense to attempt to make the ocean "safe" by removing these food sources.
  7. Anyone can say they "Saw something" I'm a diver and surfer and have never seen any great white shark anywhere in the water. I've seen lots of dolphins, seals, rays, small sharks. I'm more surprised at the media for jumping on this "cry wolf" story, no one has been able to verify any of the sightings, so we are not sure they are accurate.

June 3, 2011
Children's Pool Rope Barrier Can Come Down
By Nathan Max, Union Tribune.(with slight editing by Ellen Shively)
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Lisa Foster ordered the disputed rope barrier at Children’s Pool beach to be removed this weekend

The issue of whether to keep the rope up year-round, instead of just during the seals’ pupping months, will come back to court on July 15. However, Foster suggested that APRL which is suing the city, has an uphill battle in proving that the city’s Planning Commission overstepped its authority by denying a coastal development permit in December.

“The court’s job is to determine whether there’s been an abuse of discretion,” Foster said. “In this case, based on my preliminary view, there is evidence that would support the Planning Commission’s finding.”

Her ruling is the latest chapter in a long-running fight between environmentalists and animal-rights activists who want to protect the seals and those seeking greater access to the beach.

At the end of Friday’s 75-minute hearing, Foster said she based her ruling on what she believes has been the status quo at Children’s Pool — that no rope barrier is maintained during the non-pupping season.

The rope was to be in place December 15 through May 15.

“The court cannot make a finding that there will be irreparable harm in this case to the seals,” Foster said. “The entire history of the seals at the Children’s Pool is that  there hasn’t been a rope, and the seals seem to be OK.”

San Diego uses the rope to help safeguard nursing seals, who can become skittish when disturbed and abandon their pups. The city’s Planning Commission had decided that a request by various seal supporters for the rope to stay up permanently didn’t meet specific requirements for issuing a coastal development permit.

The commission’s decision came after the City Council asked the mayor last year to have the rope remain year-round. The mayor sent the request through the standard permit process, which involved the commission when a Hearing Officer approved the year round placement.

Dorota Valli, campaign manager for SealWatch San Diego, said she has little hope there will be a positive outcome for her side next month.

“Of course it’s very disappointing, because to the general public it is obvious that the Planning Commission abused its discretion by denying the ruling made by the elected officials,” she said.

Pro-access advocate Justin Schlaefli, a diver who edits a newsletter for a spearfishing club, said he was thrilled with Foster’s decision.

“We feel the rope is a legitimate impediment to access at the beach,” Schlaefli said.

During Friday’s hearing, Foster peppered pro-seal attorney Bryan Pease with questions. Pease tried to show that the Planning Commission went against the city’s intent by denying the permit, but to no avail.

“If that was the case, I would expect the council to be part of this litigation,” Foster said. “And they’re not.”

Pease went on to argue that people fighting to remove the rope frequently ignore it, so their contention that it’s an obstruction to beachgoers is a red herring.

“They want thousands of people on the beach so the seals will disperse,” he said.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who represents La Jolla, said she supports the judge’s ruling and is in favor of the rope being removed when the seals are not nursing.

“During the summertime, typically the seals spend a lot more time in the water,” Lightner said. “It’s important to allow people access to the pool at that time.”

Children’s Pool was set aside in 1931 as a place for people to practice swimming in the ocean. The cove is popular with seals and their pups because it’s protected from big waves and sits close to some rich feeding areas. It is also a tourist attraction.

It is legal for people to cross the guide rope that the city lays out during pupping season, but it is against federal law to harass the seals. What exactly constitutes harassment, and at what proximity beachgoers should get to the seals, continues to be in dispute.

During the first three months of 2011, there were more than double the amount of calls to police at the cove compared with the year-earlier period, as beach-use advocates held regular gatherings on the sand steps away from the nursing seals.

During the past five years, the dispute has been fought at City Hall, the Legislature and in both federal and state courtrooms. It will continue next month. nathan.max@uniontrib.com • (619) 718-5252 • Twitter: @natemax

May 15, 2011
Update on the La Jolla seal hearing. On Friday, May 13th we won a small victory when Judge Lisa Foster issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) to keep the rope guideline up until June 3rd. The next hearing date will be June 3rd and she should be making a decision then whether or not the rope will be kept in place all year long. During the hearing she expressed some exasperation for not being provided with the specific municipal code that guided the Planning Commission in their decision for not allowing the rope. It's the attorney's responsibility to provide the court with this pertinent information and they failed to do so for a second time.

This was interesting because the flustered attorneys said they "had pieces of it" but not the complete municipal code. They didn't even offer the "pieces" they said they have. This makes me wonder if any such code even exists. Could the Planning Commission have acted irresponsibly by making their decision to over rule the City Council's resolution without any legal guidelines???!!

The City attorney also tried to argue against the judge's decision to keep the rope up until June 3rd  but Bryan (APRL) countered this by telling her that NOAA has stated that pupping season doesn't end until May 30th. She accepted this and said this was part of her reason for the TRO.

Seal supporters (about 12-13) filled most of the small courtroom while the anti-seal side showed up with only 3. In anticipation of the rope coming down, the anti-seal groups were planning a "Beach Clean-up Day" for Sunday, May 15th. We talked about this afterwards and some people said they were going to call NOAA / NMFS to alert them.

APRL/SealWatch, Friends of the La Jolla Seals, Sea Shepherd, Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) Volunteers, Orange County People for Animals (OCPA) and other pro-seal activists were all in attendance and it was great to see this and it couldn't have gone unnoticed by the judge and other observers.

Even though some good things happened during this hearing the final outcome is still uncertain. Come to the hearing if you can on June 3rd. It's in Judge Lisa Foster's courtroom, Dept. 60, 333 W. Broadway downtown.

THANK YOU Bryan for all your hard work on this and much more!!!

December 10, 2010
San Diego Planning Commission denied permanent rope line at Casa Beach. The year-round rope line was approved by City Council as a management tool, but this decision was appealed by the La Jolla Community Planning Association.

The permit for the City Council proposal to close the beach on an ongoing basis for the seal pupping season December 15 – May 15 each year has been submitted and is being reviewed by various agencies. Approval will  likely be a lengthy process of one to two years.

Parks and Recreation installed new signs at the entrance to the beach promoting shared use of the Children's Pool and asking the public to stay back from the seals.

Summer 2010
The scene at the beach has been complicated by pro-access to the beach proponents setting up signs and selling seal - related merchandise, thereby fooling the public into thinking they are the opposite of what they really represent. APRL, also a non-profit organization, does support more protection for the colony, and have been selling from their booth for many years

Seal harassment during the summer has occurred on a daily basis  as beach users prevent the seals from hauling out when they need to rest. On June 11 the mayor denied City Council’s request for a temporary rope line to give a safe distance between  people and seals. The Mayor failed to acknowledge the immediate need for the rope even though arguments were put forward that if an incident involving a child being bitten by a frightened seal occurred, or if a seal were harmed by a careless action, the liability would be on the city.

May 17, 2010
Both pro-seal and pro-access groups gave testimony as to how the beach should be managed at a City Council special session. It was acknowledged that poor management practices at the beach have caused years of conflict between the two groups and led the city to spend a million or more dollars in litigation and police response to problems between the various interest groups.

Council members approved the following plan adopted by the Natural Resources and Culture Committee on April 5, 2010:

  • A coastal emergency exists that requires maintaining a rope barrier year around and applying for an emergency coastal development permit;
  • Allowing seal only use on the beach during pupping season and shared use during non-pupping season;
  • Prohibiting dogs from the beach year around;
  • Seeking private/grant funding for a full-time Park Ranger or Lifeguard and
  • Establishing clear signage explaining the rules to the public.

January 1, 2010
SB-428, which added "marine mammal park for the education and enjoyment of children" became effective and allowed the city, as site manager, to begin to devise a management plan at Casa Beach.

November 13, 2009
Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor overturned two prior rulings by other judges that would have forced San Diego to disperse about 200 harbor seals that live at Casa Beach by dredging the accumulated sand and returning it to it's 1941 configuration.

September 22, 2009
City Council voted 7-1 NOT to certify the final Environmental Impact Report which proposed dredging Casa Beach. It was noted that the document did not provide an analysis of the impact of SB-428, creation of a marine mammal park or the impact of the MLPA process. It is also inconsistent with the City's General Plan which promotes aquatic biodiversity and habitat recovery. City Council member Donna Frye wanted to see an analysis of ALL alternatives and preparation of a joint Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers.

July 20, 2009
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs SB-428 which will go into effect January 1, 2010. It adds "a marine mammal park for the education and enjoyment of children" as one of the stipulations to the state statue 941.

July 10, 2009
The State Assembly yesterday unanimously passed SB-428 (71-0) that would allow the San Diego City Council to determine whether seals or children should have priority over the cove. The City could decide the seals should be left alone and possibly designate the beach and the rookery as Marine Mammal Park. The bill was supported by both the Mayor and City Council to put an end to further lawsuits, nor be forced to dredge the beach in order to disperse the seals. The city has already spent over $1 million dollars on the O'Sullivan case.

April 17, 2009
The State Senate approved legislation on April 16 that aims to give the city of San Diego more authority to decide whether to restore the cove for people by chasing away the seals that have taken over the area. The bill would amend the City's original tidelands grant that now designates the beach as a swimming area for children, opening the door for the cove to become a marine mammal park. The State Assembly will vote on the legislation sometime in June. For more information, click HERE.

The Children’s Pool beach, also known as Casa beach, is a La Jolla and San Diego landmark.  Formerly an open beach with dangerous rip currents, a breakwater wall was built with funding from Ellen Browning Scripps, a La Jolla resident and philanthropist.  Her intention was to provide a safe place for children to bathe, and when the construction of the wall was complete the area was dedicated in 1931 as the Children’s Pool for the benefit of the local community.

The breakwater wall was built upon a large rock shelf known since 1887 as Seal Rock and Seal Rock Point.  First hand accounts by native La Jollans indicate the presence of harbor seals in the area before and after construction of the wall. 

For years, in virtually every discussion about the seal controversy, reference has been made to a “Children’s Pool.”  This mischaracterization has been used by anti-seal forces to create the impression that San Diego benefactor Ellen Browning Scripps wanted Casa Beach devoted exclusively to the use of children.  

The fact is that Scripps did not give the city any property in or on which to create a “children’s pool.”  On the contrary, it was the State of California, not Scripps that conveyed property to the City of San Diego— but not for the sole purpose of creating a pool in which children could swim.

Chapter 937 of the Laws of 1931 is entitled: “An act granting certain tide and submerged lands of the State of California to the city of San Diego, San Diego county, in said state, upon certain trusts and conditions.”

Section 1 (a) of the statute states in full: “That said lands shall be devoted exclusively to [1] public park, [2] bathing pool for children, [3] parkway, [4] highway, [5] playground and [6] recreational purposes, and [7] to such other uses as may be incident to, or convenient for the full enjoyment of, such purposes.”

There are the six specifically enumerated uses for Casa Beach, at least three of which are extremely broad: [3] parkway, [4] highway and [6] recreational purposes.  Certainly, the latter could mean almost anything, from amusement parks to athletic fields—or, surely, as has been the case for decades, seal-watching.

It is number 7—“such other uses as may be incident to, or convenient for the full enjoyment of, such purposes”— that even more belies the anti-seal propaganda that has labeled Casa Beach as a “Children’s Pool.”  The meaning and scope of the “such other” power is left entirely up to the City of San Diego under its home rule power, granted by the State Constitution.

No matter what anti-seal partisans, or the uninformed, may call Casa Beach, it was never intended to be exclusively a “Children’s Pool.”  In the past, it has not been exclusively a “Children’s Pool.”  It is not now.  And there is nothing in history, law or public policy that mandates that in the future it should be.

It was only after the statutory conveyance of Casa Beach from the State to the City that Scripps donated the sea wall.  In doing so, her wishes—even if clearly expressed, and no matter how well intentioned—could no more amend Chapter 937 of the laws of 1931 than can the constant and erroneous mischaracterization of Casa Beach as the "Children's Pool." 

Essentially, there are two legal claims that pro-seal legal experts have made.

Frequently asked questions about the controversy

1.  When did seals start coming to this beach?  Weren't people here first?

  • The seals were here long before people and in maps from the late 1800’s the big rock just below the wall is named Seal Rock.

2.  Can you go down to the beach and swim?

  • Yes, the City Council has made this a shared use beach meaning that people are free to use the area along with the seals.
  • When seals are on the beach, the distance people should stay from the seals is 50 feet as mandated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act,
  • There are 8 other beaches in La Jolla for children to swim.

3.  Why is this beach important for the seals?

  • It is the only harbor seal rookery south of Carpenteria.

4.  Why do people oppose having the seals here?

  • Most are people who have lived in La Jolla a long time and remember the beach as a “children’s beach”.
  • Some swimmers, divers and snorkelers want to use the beach exclusively.
  • Some residents complain of the smell.
  • Some La Jollan’s object to too many visitors in the area.

5.  What can I do to help?

Our Arguments are:

  1. The 200 harbor seal colony at this site is the only one of its kind in Southern California. Being able to view wild animals in their natural habitat is a unique experience for many people.

  2. Children especially enjoy this opportunity. Many have never seen wild animals except in zoos.

  3. This beach is a rookery where pups are born on the beach every year. The birth of these and the subsequent development of the pups give pleasure to thousands of people.

  4. Harbor seals are timid animals - they are easily intimidated by people on the beach.

  5. There are 500 miles of coastline in San Diego alone - available for swimming, snorkeling and other water sports.

  6. The natural fecal waste of the area by seals, birds and other marine creatures aids the ocean ecological environment by enriching the kelp beds. If the area becomes a seal preserve, water pollution is not an issue.

  7. The thousands of visitors who come to view the seals spend money in local restaurants, shops and hotels and thus help the economy.

  8. Viewing these seals is a year round opportunity. The seal colony does not migrate but makes its home here twelve months of the year.

What Can YOU Do?
Click here: Ways You Can Help

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P.O. Box 2016, La Jolla, CA 92038
For more information please call email us.