Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Senses, surf, and seals in San Diego …

Sandiego     In San Diego for the first time in more than a decade this week, I find that the city’s once-proud main street, Broadway, still holds more homeless people pr block than almost any place in the nation, that the downtown revival shopping mall, Horton Plaza, still holds up as perhaps the best example of its type (admittedly not a difficult competition), and that the downtown waterfront has sprouted so many new sleek condo and apartment high-rises (most of which actually appear to be occupied) that from some angles it almost looks like Vancouver.  Always in the shadow of its not-to-spoken-of colossus to the north, San Diego remains an extraordinarily pleasant city.
    One of the benefits of travel is learning about fascinating controversies of local land use law.  I was told today about the long-simmering debate over a specially isolated Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla, which in the 1990s was colonized by ocean seals.  Because humans on the beach harass the seals (arguably contrary to the Marine Mammal Protection Act) and because seals posed a threat to children, the planned human use did not mesh with the seals’ presence (with an interesting but not unexpected dash of classism in assertions that wealthy La Jollans preferred seals to human visitors from poor neighborhoods).  After some years of debate and legal wrangling, the seals appear to have won their right to the beach.  This sounds like the right choice to me; special beaches can be created many places, whereas homes for embattled marine mammals are far and few between.

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