Does His Stance on Protecting the La Jolla Seals Make Candidate Ed Harris Un-Suitable for Council District 2 ?

by on July 18, 2013 · 22 comments

in Culture, Election, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

ed harris opposing rope

Ed Harris opposed rope to protect seals

By Doug Porter

As City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer fades into the sunset (or not, if he runs for Mayor in a recall election), things are starting heat up in the race to find his replacement.

Current Councilmember Lori Zapf, whose residence was moved into the redrawn district boundaries, is the best known candidate, bringing along the advantages of her incumbency in D6 and the support of the local conservative establishment.

But challenger Ed Harris is about to get some attention, even if it’s of the unwanted type. A group lead by activist Bryan Pease is opposing his candidacy on the grounds of Harris’ past statements and actions about the La Jolla seals, along with other stances they consider anti-environmental.

Harris, who is currently a San Diego lifeguard, appeared at numerous meetings of the City Council and Coastal Commission opposing plans to allow a rope barrier to encourage a safe viewing distance, according to the group.

Reader Joe Cava points out that Harris proposed a compromise solution for the Children’s Pool. From the La Jolla Light:

The city currently installs a rope barrier at Children’s Pool during the seals’ pupping season, from Dec. 15 through May 15. The compromise calls for replacing the 4-foot high, 152-foot long rope barrier with boulders, which would close off 75 percent of the beach for seals during pupping season, and 25 percent of the beach during summer, when the marine mammals are not as plentiful.

Harris, who has witnessed the evolution of the seal issue during his more than two decades as a lifeguard at Children’s Pool, said a better compromise favoring shared beach use by humans and seals is needed to ease the polarization and tension that has developed in recent years.

“We are opposed to the year-round rope because it’s not going to solve the problem,” Harris said. “It’s going to perpetuate the problem — but we believe in a compromise. … We respect the seals and think they should have a place to pup and do everything else.”

I found this article at which brings up the questions about whether the ‘plan’ was suitable or realistic:

While some called the plan a “refreshing” and “fair” alternative to the problems at the contentious beach, others said the plan is not a practical solution.

“The rope can work,” said Dr. Jane Reldan, docent for the La Jolla Friends of the Seals, urging trustees to support the city’s recommendation for a year-round rope barrier. “The idea of moving boulders is a very strange idea … The issue on the table is not Ed Harris’ suggestion in the 11th hour when the Coastal Commission and the city posted the proposal for the city to have the year-round rope permit application.”

She also said moving the boulders would be nearly impossible due to the sheer weight of the rocks and argued that Harris’ plan for dredging portions of the sand each time the boulders are moved to decontaminate the beach would still not reduce bacteria levels to a point that is safe for human activity.

There are few issues that have raised more passions in the community in recent years than the treatment of the ever increasing number of harbor seals hanging around the Children’s Pool Beach.

From Wikipedia:

The San Diego Police Department says that police have responded to “numerous calls for service at Children’s Pool involving alleged incidents of threatened assault and intimidation” between seal advocates, swimmers and divers, and that in some cases citations have been issued or people taken into custody. A La Jolla man was indicted for sending e-mailed death threats to a seal advocate who was videotaping interactions between divers and seals, and to the Animal Protection and Rescue League.

In January, 2013 Mayor Bob Filner approved the installation of a camera (donated by the Western Alliance for Nature which is owned by a former CA Coastal Commissioner) in order to monitor the seals,their behavior and people.

This camera (with night vision) was installed on the abandoned lifeguard tower. Harassment was witnessed almost immediately after the camera was installed. After video of the abuse went viral, people were outraged and Mayor Filner ordered the Children’s Pool (akaCasa Beach) closed at night to protect the pregnant seals and newborn (and recently born) pups.

Pease and his supporters say candidate Ed Harris has in the past actively encouraged tourists to harass seals on the beach in La Jolla.

They’re planning to picket his kickoff campaign event this weekend. A Facebook page has been set up to encourage participation at the Point Loma event.

This was an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column, the Starting Line at San Diego Free Press.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Lifeguard Ed Harris’ boulder proposal for the seal beach at Casa Cove is balderdash and is designed as an end-run around the established rope there that separates humans from protected marine mammals. Boulders are not “suitable, realistic, refreshing, fair or practical”either.

Harris and his diver friends regularly pack the monthly meetings of La Jolla Parks & Beaches to press for beach “access” despite the reality of of seals’ presence and of federal and state laws protecting them, preventing solution to this longstanding and contentious community issue.

At this month’s meeting, Parks & Beaches will seek a role in operating the beach seal-cam that has delivered film of birthing seals as well as evidence of nighttime attacks by humans on the animals. At one point the Mayor had ordered a nighttime police guard at the location.

Parks & Beaches’ next meeting is Monday, July 22 at 4 p.m., La Jolla Recreation Center on Prospect Street, across from the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Mayor is expected as a guest around 5 p.m.


Denny July 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm

You call Harris’s plan ” balderdash”, well if the plan was already in effect, the seals would not be disturbed in the boulder pen and no humans in it. But seeing that the rope is not a legal barrier and people can go anywhere on the beach by law per the trust, the rope is a joke! if the beach is open for swimming how else can one get to the water without crossing the rope!
As for the police stationed there at night, that was drummed up by a false report from seal activist with a phony video that clearly showed not once those girls sitting on the seals, but the Mayor came running to help the crying hysterical old woman, their is even suspicion that the whole event was staged to get the night time closure of the beach. Closing the entire beach is not feasible per the trust and with the absolute right to fish stated in the trust.
The boulder plan would also require the beach cleaned and the sand build up reduced so the beach would be clean and safe for humans and seals.
This a win, win situation, but a loss for the seals activist, as their goal is to close the beach, and that is why there will be no peace at that beach.


Holly July 20, 2013 at 10:17 pm

If it makes you feel better, the harassment is an on going problem that has and continues to be documented not only by the camera that is monitoring the seals per the city’s permit conditions, but Homeland Security has installed four cameras that monitor the La Jolla coast in response to the undocumented immigrants who have been using the area to come ashore. Therefore, the harassment is recorded not only on a local level, but on a federal/national level as well.


Holly July 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Here here! All we need is another politician in San Diego that can’t see the forest for the trees. San Diego’s natural beauty is as important to our economy as Comic-Con or the races in Del Mar. It is also important to the health and well-being of us who live in San Diego and to the visitors who come here to witness the unique closeness we are fortunate to witness ALL YEAR, not just pupping season. A harbor seal rookery must have space to haul out and rest ALL YEAR, not just pupping season. There is nothing that the public can do at Casa Beach that they can’t do around the corner or down the street. Ed Harris needs to don his wetsuit and stay in the water and out of San Diego politics. I’m just sayin’.


jim grant July 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

The rocks seem like a great idea, non obtrusive and natural….nice job on that Mr. Harris.


Susie July 19, 2013 at 4:10 am

You obviously are biased @ have not done any sort of feasibility study or you
would not comment like this. Get a clue before you comment.
Boulders ? What a joke. Ha. Lmao. Ha


resident July 19, 2013 at 8:05 am

Everything written here is all the clear evidence anyone needs to see that these supposed “environmentalists” have 1 goal… to close off beaches for San Diego Citizens at all costs. They aren’t happy with the truly sensible and balanced solution of Ed Harris’s lifeguard union plan to use boulders to separate the beach when each user group needs it most (seals AND humans). This goes to show that the current rope barrier is used by the environmentalists as a tool to lie to people about whether the beach is legally open or not. They just don’t like the lifeguard plan because it takes their power away. Sorry Brian Pease, APRL, FOS… our cities beaches are not yours to control. They are the communities.

It’s about time someone rational like Ed Harris takes into consideration the safety and health of our community AS WELL AS the safety of the seals. A scientific approach should be the main consideration dictating how this beach is used… and Ed Harris understands that. These kook environmentalists are the real danger at CP. It’s time they find a new non-cause to harrass.


Sean m July 19, 2013 at 10:49 am

Curious how much the city has spent on the seals in legal and personnel costs. Probably more than sea world spends on seals and more than it cost to build the children’s pool. It amazes me that so many well-intentioned people continue to take the seal debate so seriously, its like a Joseph Heller novel.


OB Cindi July 19, 2013 at 11:59 am

The community of San Diego continues to take protection of seals seriously for several reasons: 1) We have a fragile eco-system that requires the balance of the seals. 2) They were HERE FIRST and deserve protection. 3) They have FEDERAL protection for reasons 1 and 2. 4) We are talking about a very tiny beach and the hotels and other businesses in the area around the La Jolla Childrens Pool will tell you they benefit greatly from people wanting to see animals from a safe distance in their NATURAL HABITAT. Consumers are starting to understand that when we take our kids to Sea World we are giving a stamp of approval for animals to be bought and sold into a life of performance, and that is just not right. 5) Most of the money spent to protect the La Jolla Childrens Pool seals from being slapped, chased and otherwise provoked has been done by those who wish to respect these living, breathing beings (thru private donations). 6) This topic is moot because City Planning and Development for San Diego will not allow boulders to be placed on the beach as this action would cause an increase in sand erosion and destruction of the beach for both people AND seals.

If Ed Harris’ stance is to get rid of the seals at La Jolla Childrens Pool, then he is not a feasible candidate for our community. Period.


Sean m July 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

The city is broke. It can’t fix the potholes or the water mains that break weekly, yet it comes up with millions of dollars in court costs to save the seals. All we have to show for the $millions is an easily surmountable piece of twine.The seals have their place to repose and would rather the money be spent on fish for them to eat. My favorite proposed solution was loudspeakers with barking dog sounds, got a good laugh out of that one.


Sean m July 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Also, that sea wall is made of concrete and is not a natural habitat.


Jon July 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Right. So tear down that stupid wall which never should have been built in the first place. Problem solved.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I agree with you: It would be money well-spent.


Holly July 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Millions of dollars, really? Exactly where do you get your figures?

If the divers who are pushing for ‘shared’ use would share, perhaps we could come to a compromise; they flush the seals and walk up and down the surf zone to be sure none return. They are grown men who don’t know how to share and most don’t even have children for whom they are supposedly making this fuss over.

The fact that the divers don’t respect the lives of the animals they share their recreational time with is also beyond comprehension. The seals are a natural piece of the marine world puzzle who have finally found a place they can procreate but their biggest enemies are s.c.u.b.a. divers and lifeguards. Go figure.

Seals NEED the beach to survive, men and their toys do not.


Sealed with a kiss July 19, 2013 at 10:11 pm

divers have more respect for sea life then these seal activist that can not share this beach. The divers are not the ones who walk up and down the beach keeping the seals from returning, it’s the tourist that the city made this into a tourist attraction for so they can get a pictures for home. Us humans are part of the environment!
It was Sea World who released these seals here in the 90’s that screwed up the balance of this MAN MADE BEACH.
Also with shared use since the seals have “procreated” at this beach, every year has been a record year of seal births and has spread to the next 2 beaches. There is no other man made beach in the continental USA that was built for children and others like the disabled to enjoy the calm ocean protected by that MAN MADE SEAWALL.


Jon July 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I think there’s no other man made beach for children to enjoy because of La Jolla’s shining example to other beach communities why constructing beach walls is a stupid idea. That thing should never have been built. Tear it down. Stop this nonsensical fighting.


Sean m July 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

I don’t have an exact cost figure, but this articles about a single episode states how the bill to the city has passed 1 million. The meter has not stopped running on attorney fees…


OB Cindi July 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm

“Seals NEED the beach to survive, men and their toys do not.” — HOLLY
^^^^^^^^^^^ True that!!!


Debra July 22, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I agree.


Ed Harris July 21, 2013 at 1:46 pm
nancy July 22, 2013 at 11:54 am

Ed Harris’ stand isn’t an issue anymore as he has dropped out of the race and
endorsed Sarah Boot, another OBcean, and haven’t heard her stance on the seals.


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Trust me, as they’ve been saying in the last week — there is enough kookiness and hostility to go around concerning competing demands for protection of seals at Casa Cove and protection for humans’ access to the beach and water. Boulder suggestions are tame compared to the vitriol exchanged among rude and loud humans in monthly meetings of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory subcommittee of San Diego Park & Recreation.

Park and Rec director Stacey LoMedico ought to take note of routine obstreperousness that marks monthly meetings of her advisory La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group and rein it in. And after that, authorities at the City should regularize what goes on at that contested Casa Cove/Children’s Pool beach to conform with local, state and federal laws and to avoid interpersonal mayhem.

After that, City fathers and mothers need to develop a scientifically solid long-term plan for the urban shoreline of San Diego in the face of what appears to be increasing colonization of area beaches and rocks by marine mammals and birds. This is not just about protecting divers or protecting seals, it’s about protecting and enhancing the community’s greatest single geographical asset, our beaches.


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