Almost everyone who has visited La Jolla in recent years has taken time to stroll past the Children’s Pool to take in the sight of waves crashing against the sea wall, and to watch seals and sea lions bask in the sun. The seals have become a fixture in the area for years, as more than 200 seals currently live at the cove. There are few places in San Diego other than SeaWorld where tourists and San Diego residents alike are pretty much guaranteed to enjoy the opportunity to have such a close encounter with seals. This may soon change.
There has been a recent movement to remove the seals from their La Jolla homes to parts unknown. Pollution is the ostensible reason for the removal, with bacteria levels blamed on the seal feces. In May, the City of San Diego announced that it would begin chasing the seals away to restore the Children’s Pool to a beach habitat strictly for humans. The plan is to set up an amplified speaker system to broadcast the sound of dogs barking. Seals are afraid of dogs, so it is hoped that the canine cacophony will sufficiently encourage the seals to move out of La Jolla and find a different habitat.
There are several problems with the planned seal unsettling. First, the estimated cost of the subwoofer system is $689,000 per year. Almost three quarters of a million dollars to keep 200 seals from lying in the sand, comes to $3,445 per seal per year ($20,670 for a family of six). In an era of cash-strapped city finances, it hardly seems right to spend money in this fashion. The local homeless shelters could use the money in a much more effective manner.
Second, assuming the seals are dislodged from the Children’s Pool, where is it likely that they will go next? Perhaps the City of San Diego is hoping that the seals will pull up a rock at Del Mar or Solana Beach? Will we then be passing the buck to the smaller incorporated cities to come up with their own solution? Or maybe the seals will move south to Mission Bay or Pacific beach homes, or even downtown to the San Diego harbor. Will we then set up another $3/4 Million program to move the seals from those areas in a few years? Are we hoping that they will eventually learn Spanish and move south of the border to Tijuana or perhaps to the beach tourista cities of Rosarito or Ensenada?
Third, the plan to remove the seals is not popular with San Diego residents. A poll taken by the San Diego company Competitive Edge in June asked 504 randomly selected adults for their opinions. 64% of the respondents said that they are opposed to moving the seals. 47% are strongly opposed. 25% are in favor of the removal plan, while only 16% are strongly in favor of removing the seals. The margin of error is only 5%, so clearly there is insufficient public support of the project to invest the money required for the removal scheme.
Finally, the seal removal is expected to hurt La Jolla businesses. The Competitive Edge also found that up to 70,000 people annually would stop visiting La Jolla if the seals were not there to attract them. La Jolla business owners would certainly feel the bite, not just hear the bark, if the removal plan is enacted.
There are plenty of other beaches in La Jolla where owners of La Jolla homes can join San Diego residents and tourists for a swim. Why stir the soup in the Children’s Pool?