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Judge rejects request to erect rope barrier at Children’s Pool

A judge rejected a request Wednesday by an environmental group seeking to immediately get a rope barrier erected at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla to protect the seals.

Earlier this month, Mayor Jerry Sanders denied a request from the San Diego City Council seeking a declaration that an emergency exists so the rope barrier can be immediately put up at the beach, and kept up year-round.

At the time, Sanders said there was no reason the request shouldn’t go through the normal coastal permitting process, which could take three to six months.

In response, Bryan Pease, an attorney for the Animal Protection and Rescue League, filed a lawsuit in an effort to force Sanders to comply with the City Council’s demands.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton sided with Sanders.

But attorney Bryan Pease, an animal rights activist who filed the suit, had a different take on Barton’s ruling, noting a new court date has been set for July 22 on the seal rope matter.

“The mayor has filled out the paperwork for the rope to be replaced in three to six months,” Pease said in an e-mail. “But in the meantime there is constant harassment by people getting too close, and NOAA has reported miscarriages and premature births in previous months of November and December following a summer with no rope.”

Responding to Pease’s interpretation of the June 30 hearing, Gina Coburn, communications director for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, said. “A litigant can always get a hearing date by simply calling the clerk. Mr. Pease’s motion was denied.”

Goldsmith issued a statement after the hearing saying, “Judge Jeffrey Barton found, based on the evidence presented, the mayor did not abuse his discretion in refusing to declare an emergency for an emergency permit to put up the rope barrier at the Children’s Pool.”

“We will continue to aggressively defend the City from such frivolous lawsuits,” he added.

A rope barrier to separate people from seals is put up during pupping season, which runs from December to May. The rope is taken down during the rest of the year.

In May, the City Council voted to approve a management plan for the Children’s Pool that includes keeping the rope barrier up at the beach year-round, prohibiting dogs and to hiring a full-time park ranger to patrol the area.

The City Council also directed the City Attorney’s Office to draft an ordinance that would prohibit beach access during seal-pupping season.

A colony of harbor seals that has taken up residence at the Children’s Pool has sparked a nearly decade-long debate between those that want to preserve public access to the beach and others that want to protect the marine mammals.