Filner extends rope barrier amid concerns over legality and jurisdiction
by Mariko Lamb
Jan 03, 2013 | 7182 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Visitors and activists — those both for and against the rope reminding humans to keep a safe distance from the seals — gathered at Children’s Pool on Dec. 27 to witness the first stages of the pupping season, which began Dec. 15. DON BALCH | Village News
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Just as expectant mother seals launched into the start of their annual pupping season at Children’s Pool beach on Dec. 15, a gathering of pro-seal activists from the La Jolla Friends of the Seals, a handful of beach-going bystanders and newly elected San Diego Mayor Bob Filner paid a visit to the cove to observe seals lounging just beyond a narrow yellow rope barrier.

Like clockwork, the infamous yellow rope, which is erected annually during the seals’ pupping season from Dec. 15 to May 15, was installed on the beach alongside signage to encourage onlookers to keep a safe distance from the rookery.

Due to a clerical error in 2010, however, city staff approved permits for a 130-foot barrier, not one that stretches 152 feet in length, as it was initially intended. Although the California Coastal Commission (CCC) unanimously approved the installation of a year-round 152-foot rope in July 2012, denial of the same year-round rope by the San Diego Planning Commission overturned the CCC’s ruling, leaving the city with the quagmire of the 130-foot rope that was previously approved for six months at a time.

Filner, a vocal proponent of a year-round rope barrier and protected marine mammal reserve, ordered the city’s Park and Recreation Department staff to extend the guideline rope to 152 feet, as well as proceed with obtaining the appropriate amendments to the existing permits to make the extension legal. The problem, however, lies in the uncertainty about which entity, the CCC or city, is responsible for approving the amendments to the site development and coastal development permits.

According to a legal memorandum issued by the City Attorney’s Office on Dec. 24, the CCC is responsible for approving revisions to the coastal development permit, while the city retains jurisdiction over the amendment of the site development permit. Should the mayor fail to obtain proper permit revisions, however, the city may be subject to penalties imposed in superior court.

As of Dec. 21, whether properly permitted or not, that little yellow rope stands at 152 feet in length, much to the satisfaction of those who hope to see humans observing the seals from a safe distance, while still permitting divers access into the water via a three-foot opening between the rope and the coastal bluff.
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