New lawsuit to protect seals filed against mayor, city attorney



City News Service

An attorney for supporters of the harbor seals at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla sued Mayor Jerry Sanders and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith today to force them to close the beach during pupping season.

Lawyer Bryan Pease is seeking a writ of mandate that would make the defendants comply with a resolution passed on a 6-2 vote by the City Council nearly two years ago.

The resolution called for a rope barrier to be placed at the Children’s Pool year-round to discourage people from going down to the beach, and for Goldsmith to draft an ordinance to close the area entirely from mid-December to mid-May, when the seals are giving birth and raising their young.

Sanders, who according to Goldsmith has the legal authority to declare an emergency to put up the rope all year, declined to do so -- a decision later upheld in court.

An ordinance to close the area entirely was never brought before council members.

The Children’s Pool was gifted to San Diego in 1931 as a safe swimming area for kids, but became a magnet for seals, touching off a years-long controversy between supporters of the marine mammals and beach access advocates.

Pease said the current rope barrier is inadequate, allowing spectators onto the beach and disturbing the marine mammals.

“Most of the people that are getting this close to seals actually like the seals,” Pease said.

He said a group of people determined to keep the beach open is encouraging people to enter the breeding area. The problem is especially bad on weekends, according to the lawyer.

“No one knows how close is too close,” Pease said. “There needs to be a management plan in place so people aren’t getting so close that they’re driving the seals into the water and causing mothers to separate from their pups.”

The rope extends across most of the 133-foot opening to the beach. The question of whether it should stay up all year will next go before the California Coastal Commission.

No date for a hearing on Pease’s lawsuit has been scheduled.

Messages to Sanders’ and Goldsmith’s offices were not immediately returned.