Environmentalists Win Beach Closure for Seals Over Children

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 12, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There goes that neighborhood.

It began with the barking, then the loitering. When they started mating on the beach, well, that was it.

The city decided to close the beach to protect seals from humans. What was once a children's beach is now, by court order, the seals' beach.

Children's Pool

The California Fourth District Court of Appeal said the city properly closed the beach. It will be closed -- to people -- from Dec. 15 to May 15 every year under penalty of law.

Misdemeanor penalties will be up to $1,000 in fines or six months in jail. But for homeowners in the exclusive La Jolla community, the beach closure was really an insult.

Children's Pool is an artificial cove created for children in 1932, and was a popular spot for families even after the seals started to move in. People liked to pose with them for selfies and bark at the mammals.

But in 2014, the city council approved an ordinance to close the beach during mating season -- the seals', that is. Animal lovers said beachgoers disturbed the creatures, causing them to abandon pups or give birth prematurely.

Share the Beach

A citizens' group, Friends of the Children's Pool, sued and argued that local government did not have jurisdiction over the beach under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. A trial judge agreed.

But the Fourth District reversed, saying the federal law didn't apply to the local ordinance. "Rather, it is a land-use regulation, which falls within a traditional state police power."

The neighborhood group says it plans to appeal. People have been sharing the habitat with the seals for over 20 years, they said.

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