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    City's response addresses La Jolla's Cove concerns
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Jul 30, 2015 | 4604 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Sea lions take an afternoon nap near La Jolla Cove. / Photo by Thomas Melville
    Sea lions take an afternoon nap near La Jolla Cove. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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    La Jolla Parks and Beaches (LJPB), which makes land-use recommendations on coastal parks, has received a reply from the city to a letter it sent in April listing concerns and recommendations as to what could be done to curb the burgeoning Cove sea lion population. The number of Cove sea lions has been swelling for at least the past couple of years, with the marine mammals becoming increasingly more aggressive, as well as more territorial, according to swimmers and other Cove users. More recently, the lions have been congregating more on the Cove beach, with some of them making their way up and fouling the ungated Cove stairs with their waste, which has become a public health hazard. In a letter replying to LJPB dated July 1, Herman D. Parker, the city’s Park and Recreation director, said, “The list of potential solutions is constrained by a host of regulatory, environmental and practical considerations. Public safety and the enjoyment of the beaches is a priority for the city, and we continue to address these issues to the best of our abilities, and with the constraints of our resources and the law.” Parker’s letter included responses to the following points raised by LJPB: • Installing a gate mechanism at the stairways to the Cove has resource, design and regulatory challenges. • Building a gate preventing sea lion intrusion would require the designing of a capital improvement that is beyond the city’s sole-permitting authority. • Cleanup of sea lion feces from the area continues to be performed by Park and Rec staff within the limitations of our existing resources. • The city does not have equipment or staffing required to perform beach cleaning at the Cove beyond that of the tidal flow. • The city has hired Hanan and Associates Inc. to monitor the Cove’s sea lion population. Additionally, funding was allocated in the city’s FY 2015-16 budget to begin work to develop a coastal marine life management plan for the area that will address the interaction of people, animal and marine life. The activity of sea lions will be part of that plan. • Any bluffside or off-shore construction would be subject to local, state and federal regulations that would require thorough review and permitting processes. There are concerns that construction of a (new) barrier along the bluffs may have the effect of moving more of the animals onto the beach at the Cove. • Application of microbial spray to bluff areas to mitigate odors will continue. • There is a strict prohibition against any form of discharge into the waters surrounding the Cove and bluffs. Spraying or washing activities that would drain to this ocean area are not permitted. LJPB will next meet 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. LJPB chair Dan Allen said that agenda will address the sea lion situation, and include further discussion of the contentious issue of Coast Walk parking.
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    Mount Soledad memorial sold, but will that end the lawsuit?
    Jul 29, 2015 | 4623 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    The Latin cross at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial. / Photo by Thomas Melville
    The Latin cross at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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    La Jolla military veterans, who recently bought the half-acre parcel containing the controversial, towering Mount Soledad cross for $1.4 million from the Department of Defense, say that ends the 25-year legal battle over whether a religious symbol belongs on public land. But James McElroy, an attorney who represented the late Vietnam War veteran Phillip Paulson, and now the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who took his place, both of whom insisted the cross must come down, isn’t so sure. “I’m confident that the lawsuit that began in 1989, Paulson vs. city of San Diego, will, in the very near future, be over and the lawsuit dismissed,” said Bruce Bailey, president/CEO of the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association board of trustees. “This is because the (land) transfer that occurred this time is different than in the past. This time, the property was transferred to the association, for fair-market value, and if, for some reason, the property doesn’t remain as a memorial, it will revert back immediately to the U.S. government, and they will retain it as a memorial.” Noting this most recent Soledad property sale “might be a step in the right direction,” McElroy nonetheless added that it also might not be. “We have not yet had time to sit and go through the details of the (sale) agreement,” said McElroy, adding, “the devil’s in the details.” “We really need to look closely at the terms of the deal, to see whether (with the sale) there has been a level playing field where preference was not shown for one religion over another,” concluded McElroy. The legality of the Soledad cross has been in question since 1989, when U.S. Army Vietnam War combat veteran Philip Paulson, an atheist, became the lead plaintiff in a series of lawsuits seeking to remove the cross from the mountaintop, arguing its presence constitutes an illegal public endorsement of one religion over others. Paulson died of cancer in 2006, but the legal battle has continued with the ACLU taking his place. The controversial case remains active a quarter-century later. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice denied hearing arguments for and against the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial cross being an endorsement of religion. The high court remanded the matter back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit previously ruled the cross violates the constitutional separation of church and state and must be removed. That case is still pending. In conjunction with the American Foreign Legion Post 275, the Mount Soledad Memorial Association (MSMA) established the memorial in 1954 with the building of a 27-foot Latin cross. The original memorial honored Korean War veterans. In 2000, the association expanded the memorial installing six curved walls, which have since been outfitted with black granite plaques paying tribute to individual veterans both alive and deceased. An additional five walls were added in 2013 to form a complete circle at the apex of Soledad Natural Park. There are presently more than 3,700 individual plaques adorning the memorial walls honoring veterans from the Revolutionary War to the present. Owning the Soledad Cross property once again is a “huge step forward to us becoming known as a national monument, not just a regional monument,” said Bailey, adding, “That’s our vision.” McElroy wasn’t concerned about the $1.4 million sale price of the Soledad cross property, which he said, “seems like a reasonable amount. “I’m more concerned about whether the government has retained some discretionary interest, whether they have transferred the cross cleanly,” McElroy said. “But if, on the other hand, this is a sham sale intended merely to save the cross, and the government has demonstrated, once again, it’s preference for one religion over all the other religions: then we may have a problem with that.”
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    Fireworks critics renew opposition about SeaWorld's nightly noisy show
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Jul 28, 2015 | 10859 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    SeaWorld fireworks over Mission Bay. / Photo by Thomas Melville
    SeaWorld fireworks over Mission Bay. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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    Opponents of nightly summer fireworks at SeaWorld San Diego insisting the loud noise is harmful to animals and humans, have renewed a petition drive calling upon the marine mammal park to end their pyrotechnic displays and replace them with less less disruptive – and costly – laser shows. Petition organizers, who asked to remain anonymous citing previous harassment, said their objective is to see SeaWorld “have fireworks once a year on the 4th of July – if at all. At least everyone expects and can prepare properly for them, i.e. take animals and young children elsewhere, put protective sound tools in place,” on Independence Day. SeaWorld fireworks detractors say research shows “noise pollution from nightly fireworks causes harm to humans and other animals. … Effects of noise pollution to humans include (damage to the) physiological and psychological health of human beings: hypertension, annoyance, high stress levels, aggression, hearing loss, tinnitus, sleep disturbance, etc.” Fireworks opponents also claim fireworks, being composed of toxic combustible chemicals “will never be truly environmentally friendly,” adding “newer technology, such as laser light shows, illuminated night kite shows and holographic fireworks can make the use of fireworks obsolete.” Previously responding to the online petition drive, SeaWorld has said “Nightly fireworks during the summer have been a tradition for SeaWorld and San Diego for nearly 30 years, and we continue to receive significant positive feedback from visitors and area residents.” The marine park noted it only uses small fireworks shells in its displays on 66 nights during the summer, adding, “It has long been our policy not to use any shells for the sole purpose to make noise.  All of our fireworks displays are conducted in accordance with city of San Diego policy.” Regarding the impact of noise from fireworks on animals, SeaWorld responded, “Our firework displays do not impact the animals in our park. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service filed a report relating to our animals and fireworks that states that ‘all animals were apparently healthy and there were no aberrant behavioral manifestations noted ... as result of firework activities in the evening during summer.’” Regarding the impact of its fireworks, SeaWorld noted, “More than 10 years of analysis consistently demonstrate that our fireworks are not having a detrimental impact on Mission Bay,” while pointing out “Our fireworks displays last only five minutes.” In their petition, fireworks organizers cite a “20-mile radius” as the significant distance within which animals and humans can be negatively impacted by noise from pyrotechnics. But they added this is a “conservative number. The reality is people from much further away claim they are significantly disturbed.” Petition organizers note that “Disney, and the City of Monterey have switched to laser shows, the cost of producing is less by hundreds of thousands of dollars (that should matter to a corporation with declining profits) and they are spectacular too. So it’s not an original idea or concept, and other civilized folks all over the world have already made the switch.” Concerning how SeaWorld’s fireworks policy could be changed, anti-fireworks petition organizers said, “The easiest process is for SeaWorld to take the high road and simply switch over to a less harmful entertainment and make it a positive by creating the best laser show in the west.” But petition organizers also suggested City Council action might be necessary to provide leverage to create change suggesting the city attorney “ought to read their lease and see what in that lease allows SeaWorld to negatively impact the community with a bombing of fireworks every night, an event that no other group or business could go to the council today and get permission to do such an activity.” 
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    A wheel fight in Pacific Beach: Some locals, businesses upset with DecoBike sites on boardwalk
    Jul 27, 2015 | 3324 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    The DecoBike rental stand on the boardwalk near Crystal Pier. / Photo by Thomas Melville
    The DecoBike rental stand on the boardwalk near Crystal Pier. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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    The DecoBike stand near Grand Avenue on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
    The DecoBike stand near Grand Avenue on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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    Sounds like DecoBike could have a fight on its hands. Some Pacific Beach business owners and residents are up in arms as the Miami-based company, which has entered into a partnership with the city of San Diego to provide public bike sharing at 180 separate stations citywide, has installed stations along the PB boardwalk. “The Pacific Beach Planning Group (PBPG) voted unanimously to adamantly protest the proposed location of DecoBike’s stations on the public boardwalk in Pacific Beach,” said advisory group chair Brian Curry in a letter sent to Councilmember Lori Zapf and Mayor Kevin Faulconer earlier this year. “Our understanding is DecoBike intends to proceed with installation in the near-term, despite opposition from representatives of the PBPG, Discover PB, PB Town Council, bike shop operators and the public.” Two of the bike rental stands are on the beach side of the boardwalk – one near the lifeguard station at Grand Avenue and the another just a bit north of that location near Crystal Pier. “(Deco Bike installed) large bike docking stations along the PB Boardwalk, right on the ocean front viewing locations,” said Chris Olson, longtime PBPG planner and community activist. “These locations are often used by people in wheelchairs to sit and view the ocean.” Discover Pacific Beach, the community’s Business Improvement District (BID), concurred with other community groups in protesting the three boardwalk sites. “Discover Pacific Beach is supportive of this concept (bikesharing) … (But) our organization along with the others approved a ‘well vetted’ list of bike share locations to achieve a successful partnership … there was adamant objection to two of these locations, not just because of ‘obstructed view,’ but based on the impact to the businesses and, more importantly, the safety and integrity of the boardwalk which belongs to all San Diegans and visitors alike. … This is blatant disregard for concerns that were expressed by representation of the business community, residential community and land-use advisory board.” In response, Deco Bike released the following statement: “DecoBike is committed to enhancing the quality of urban life by providing a convenient, easy-to-use bike sharing program that will provide residents and visitors a healthy, fun alternative way to ride around the city. A significant aspect of the bike sharing implementation is the placement of a network of docking stations providing a 'stop and go' model different from traditional bike shops that allows users to dock bikes at any station, during any given time, which provides flexibility and safety. “In order to incorporate bike sharing into the region’s transportation plan as a viable alternative transportation option, DecoBike is moving forward with the installation of the sites,” continued the bike share company in its public response. “Bike share in Pacific Beach is a key connector to other parts of the city’s network. The input of the community has resulted in fewer locations and smaller stations than what was originally requested.” DecoBike touted the benefits of their new interlocking system to the region's economy. “A bike share system leads riders to spend additional dollars at local retailers, lessens the reliance on automobiles and parking, and improves community livability,” said DecoBike, which added the company “looks forward to having a continued dialog with the community of Pacific Beach.” In PBPG’s letter to the city protesting the boardwalk bikeshare locations, Curry noted that the coastal community has “multiple bike shop operators and merchants directly on the boardwalk or in close proximity. None of these other private bike shop operators are allowed to occupy public space as is proposed for DecoBike. Further, DecoBike did not address our request to move one location, which is located directly across the street from a bike shop, and adjacent to another bike shop, in the very shopping center in which it is located.” Curry added, “DecoBikes also ignored our request to place stations in North Pacific Beach, primarily at Mission Boulevard and Turquoise Street, which would help connect the community.” DecoBikes and the city are now ignoring the original intent to work together and identify acceptable station locations. We will continue our strong opposition to the boardwalk locations,” Curry said. The community planner also issued a warning. “Given the actions on part of DecoBike and the city, we may also oppose any DecoBike’s locations in our community. If stations are installed, we will encourage a comprehensive boycott of any and all DecoBikes in Pacific Beach and other City of San Diego neighborhoods.”
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    Historic Plunge pool building to be razed and then rebuilt at Belmont Park
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Jul 27, 2015 | 1805 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    This artist’s rendering of the new pool building shows the retractible roof.
    This artist’s rendering of the new pool building shows the retractible roof.
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    Built in the '20s, the deteriorating historic Plunge pool and building in Belmont Park is to be torn down and completely rebuilt with all-new, modern materials. That’s what Dan Hayden, director of engineering for Belmont Park’s developers, Pacifica Enterprises Inc. told Mission Beach Precise Planning Board (MBPPB) in July. Hayden clued the community in on Pacifica’s vision for redeveloping the Plunge pool, which has been closed for repairs since March 2014. “The city owns both the pool itself and the building,” said Hayden, noting the pool has been closed four times in the past 90-plus years. Hayden told the MBPPB, which makes recommendations to the city on land-use and other beachfront issues, that the pool building is structurally unfit and had to be replaced. He noted the situation was so bad, that at one point “temporary measures had to be taken to prevent (ceiling) debris from falling into the pool.” The Plunge eventually had to be closed “for safety reasons,” said Hayden, adding, "it was unsafe.” Hayden showed artist’s renderings of the new pool, which is to have a retractible roof and is to be built with modern technology and materials. He added the Wyland mural, which adorned one of the walls of the old pool structure will be reconstituted in the new one. “The pool has had to endure a marine environment on the outside, and a humid environment on the inside,” said Hayden noting neither condition was favorable to the conventional materials used in the old building, which he said were literally “disintegrating.” The idea in redesigning the Plunge for the modern era is “not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Hayden, who added the new structure, and its retractable roof, will be made of glass like you typically see in YMCA facilities.” Hayden said the new facility will have a more open-air look and feel. He said the new structure will be aluminum, which he said is much more corrosion-resistant than steel. He added the retractable roof will provide better air flow into and out of the pool building, which will prevent moisture from getting into air cavities in the structure of the building and deteriorating it. Hayden said there is an 18-month timeline for rebuilding the Plunge. “We want to get the Plunge back in order, and reopened, so you folks can enjoy it as quickly as possible,” he said. MBPPB voted unanimously to write a letter of support endorsing Pacifica’s conceptual plans for building an all-new historic Plunge pool structure.
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