The fight surrounding seals and the public’s access to Children's Pool in La Jolla resurfaced during the San Diego Planning Commission's December 9 meeting. The commission heard an appeal of a September 15 decision to place a 130-foot rope barrier across the beach, leaving 3 feet near the bluff for public use.
The La Jolla Community Planning Group filed the appeal nine days after the ruling. The community planners opposed the placement of the rope, stating that the public was not notified of the environmental hearing and that the decision did not conform to the coastal land-use plan.
During public comment, people opposed to the project gave their reasons as to why the commission should reject the project. Councilmember Sherri Lightner was the first person to take the dais.
The councilmember objected to the lack of notification by the Development Services Department that the project would be exempt from California's Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). She urged the commission to support the appeal and deny the project.
"It is reprehensible that city staff did not alert my office or the community of an environmental determination with a project of this magnitude," said Lightner. "The process was not transparent, and the public was left out."
While Lightner objected to the CEQA exemption, John Leek, secretary of the Council for Divers, objected that there was not adequate public access and that the barrier prevents vertical access to the shoreline, violating the California Coastal Act.
"We love those animals," said Leek, "and we love the ocean. Nobody has the right to separate us."
After hours of public testimony, planning commissioners commented on the appeal.
"Finding number one for a Coastal Development Permit says [the project] will not encroach," said commissioner Tim Golba. "You're taking 98 percent of the access to the beach, that certainly is an encroachment."
"There's going to be an issue with a permanent barrier," agreed chairperson Eric Naslund.
At the end of the meeting, the commission voted unanimously in favor of overturning the decision to place a rope barrier on Children's Beach.