A Superior Court judge Wednesday gave the city of San Diego two weeks to devise a plan to disperse harbor seals from the Children’s Pool in La Jolla, saying he wasn’t convinced a federal order prohibiting removal of the animals was still in effect.
“There’s a question in my mind as to whether that temporary restraining order continues in full force and effect,” said Hofmann, referring to a Nov. 25, 2008 federal court decision. “I can’t find that language anywhere.”
Assistant San Diego City Attorney Andrew Jones said the city would immediately ask a federal court judge to clarify whether a temporary restraining order remains in place preventing seals from being dispersed.
La Jolla attorney Paul Kennerson, who has been arguing for enforcement of the trust maintaining Children’s Pool as a safe wading area for children and for seal dispersal, said, “There is no legal, economic or political excuse that would carry the day against the enforcement of this judgment (to disperse seals.”
Kennerson contends that restraining order is moot, as its purpose was a failed attempt to require the city to get a federal permit before dispersing the animals. “The whole premise of it has disappeared,” he said,
Jones urged Hofmann to consider the dire economic situation of the city in ordering the seals to be removed, a project the city claims will cost $600,000-plus. Jones added dispersing seals could also be a public relations nightmare for the city.
“Running seals off the beach is not an image San Diego wants to present to the rest of the world,” he said.
“The law of this case requires removal and dispersal of the seals,” said Judge Hofmann. “I will stay the court’s order of immediate dispersal to June 15, at which time I’d like to have a discussion with the parties by which the means of the dispersal is to take place.”
On May 22, the city submitted a dispersal plan outlining specific steps, including using amplified sound of barking dogs, to shoo seals away from the pool’s beach. Someone would be hired to disperse the mammals from 6 a.m. to sunset seven days a week for 12 months.
The plan would include weekly testing of pool bacteria levels, as well as the possibility of employees carrying a sound system up and down the beach, or using a system to spray water, on the marine mammals to discourage their presence.
Kennerson objected to using amplified sound, particularly dogs barking, noting a retirement community, Casa de Manana, is located near the pool. He advocated instead that a water sprinkler system could be installed on the beach at far less cost to effectively disperse the marine mammals.
After the session ended, City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner’s office announced they will host a community forum at 6 p.m. Thursday at the La Jolla Recreation Center to discuss the plan and answer questions. Representatives from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office and city staff have been invited.
City News Service contributed to this report.