Background and Controversy - Latest Casa Beach News
May 15, 2013
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.
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
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
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.
February 21, 2013
December 15, 2012
September 13, 2012
SAVE THE DATE!!!
San Diego City Concourse, 2nd Floor
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 email@example.com. 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:
Thank you for all your support.
July 11, 2012
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
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
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.
February 3, 2012
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:
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
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
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.
To summarize what you will see there, the situation at the beach is dire!
December 15, 2011
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.
November 7, 2011
June 3, 2011
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. firstname.lastname@example.org • (619) 718-5252 • Twitter: @natemax
May 15, 2011
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
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.
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
Council members approved the following plan adopted by the Natural Resources and Culture Committee on April 5, 2010:
January 1, 2010
November 13, 2009
September 22, 2009
July 20, 2009
July 10, 2009
April 17, 2009
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  public park,  bathing pool for children,  parkway,  highway,  playground and  recreational purposes, and  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:  parkway,  highway and  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?
2. Can you go down to the beach and swim?
3. Why is this beach important for the seals?
4. Why do people oppose having the seals here?
5. What can I do to help?
Our Arguments are:
What Can YOU Do?
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