For those seal lovers who thought the end of the debate over a rope barrier to protect seals during pupping season at Children's Pool in La Jolla was over, think again.
On October 14, Friends of Children's Pool, the group of divers and others who want to see humans and seals have equal access to the beach, filed yet another lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court challenging the California Coastal Commission's August 14 vote to cordon off the beach from December to May each year in hopes of protecting baby seals during pupping season.
The lawsuit is yet another development in what has been a nearly two-decade fight between those who want to close off the beach to protect the seals and those who say that the beach is theirs just as much as it is for the seals.
The feud began in the 1990s, when the beach was closed due to contamination from seals populating the beach. In 1999, councilmembers in San Diego voted to install a rope barrier to keep people out. Five years later, the beach at Children's Pool was designated a joint-use beach, guaranteeing equal access to both pinnipeds and people. In 2010, the city took a tougher tack and passed a resolution that prohibited access during the pupping season.
But the Friends of Children's Pool hope to change that. In their lawsuit, the attorney for the group, Bernard King, says the closing of the beach for the winter violates the state constitution.
"The California Constitution ensures that “access to the navigable waters of this State shall be always attainable for the people thereof.” (Cal. Const., art. X, § 4.) The Coastal Act states that in carrying out this constitutional requirement, 'maximum access...and recreational opportunities shall be provided for all the people consistent with public safety needs and the need to protect public rights, rights of private property owners, and natural resource areas from overuse,'" reads the lawsuit.
The argument has not changed. The group says that the beach was a gift to the people of San Diego and the use of the beach for the past 80 years establishes the public's right to the beach.
"By approving the ordinance, the LCP amendment, and the the coastal development permit, the City and the Commission breached these duties because the proposed closure is development which will directly interfere with access to the Children's Pool the public acquired through both use and legislative authorization."
The group is requesting that a judge order the rope barrier to be removed and access be granted to the public. Attorney King did not respond to a request for comment.