CHULA VISTA (AP) — California coastal regulators voted Wednesday to keep a rope barrier up year-round at a picturesque San Diego beach that's used by seals during breeding season.
The seals' presence at Children's Pool has been the subject of a long-running fight, and emotions ran high at the California Coastal Commission meeting, with the public comment period lasting about two hours.
The La Jolla Friends of the Seals said a rope was necessary to keep people at a distance and showed video clips of onlookers crowding around the seals. Seal supporters said there were other beaches near La Jolla where swimmers and divers can go.
But others, including divers and beachgoers, feared that a permanent rope would limit access to the shoreline.
"This beach is very, very important to us and access is absolutely critical," said Justin Schlaefli, president of San Diego Freedivers.
The city of San Diego has been cordoning off all but three feet of the beach between December and May when the marine mammals give birth. But the City Council voted in 2010 to make the rope permanent.
The commission's unanimous vote on Wednesday was the next step in the process.
Before the vote, commission staff recommended approval of the year-round barrier, saying it provided a buffer between seals and people while still allowing beach access. However, it required the city to draw up a plan to monitor the effectiveness of the rope barrier and revisit the issue in three years.
The artificial cove, created by a seawall in 1931 and donated to the state, was used as a children's swimming hole until the seals moved in during the 1990s and began a long feud between seal supporters and beach access advocates.