Plan outlines ways to disperse seals


The city of San Diego on Friday filed a seal dispersal plan which outlines specific steps, including the amplified sound of barking dogs, to remove harbor seals from La Jolla’s Children’s Pool should it be ordered to do so by the courts.

The plan would:

-- Disperse seals from Children’s Pool beach with an amplification (bioacoustics) system that would broadcast the sound of barking dogs.

-- Use employees or contractors, instructed to keep a safe distance from seals, to disperse the mammals from 6 a.m. to sunset seven days a week for 12 months with continuous monitoring by San Diego police. The estimated cost of $688,934 includes contractors and city staff, but does not account for overtime, holiday or non-personnel expenses.

-- Include weekly water testing of bacteria levels at Children’s Pool and counting of the seals at regular intervals to measure effectiveness and “determine if there is a need to change the tactics.

-- If the sound amplification doesn’t work on its own, the city might change the sounds or have contractors or city employees walk up and down the beach while carrying the sound system. They might also spray water or mix tactics.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who learned about the plan on May 21, was not available for comment Friday after the plan was released. However, she issued a statement after being informed by Mayor Jerry Sanders’ staff that the plan was forthcoming saying she “wants to ensure that the seal dispersal plan will address the community’s concerns regarding public safety and traffic congestion.”

As submitted to the court, the plan includes steps to protect the public, noting that dispersing the seals “has a high potential to create an environment requiring a police response.” It includes facilitating traffic flow, monitoring demonstrations, keeping the peace and responding to calls.

The plan also outlines steps to be taken should dispersal of seals at the pool become a “national media event” drawing protesters. It states that constitutional rights will be protected, and that police will be prepared to act if the situation escalates.

The plan also envisions that the Children’s Pool seals are likely to turn up on nearby public beaches. Should that happen, signs would be posted and lifeguards would help education the public about the seals.

Even as plan was submitted to Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofmann, the City Attorney’s staff noted that it “remains under a federal court order not to disperse the seals.”

“Although legislation to provide the city discretion in the use of the beach has passed the state senate with overwhelming support, it is not enacted until it passes the state assembly and is signed by the governor. Until such time as the legislation is enacted and the orders vacated, the city must comply with all orders” unless they are vacated or stayed.

In a statement, First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner representing La Jolla said she “wants to ensure that the seal dispersal plan will address the community’s concerns regarding public safety and traffic congestion.”

Attorney Paul Kennerson, who represents Valerie O’Sullivan in her lawsuit against the city claiming the seals’ presence violates the terms of the 1913 trust that established the beach as a safe wading area for children, had filed a motion earlier last week asking that the seals be immediately dispersed.

Kennerson said he believes it’s just a matter of time before the harbor seals are ordered dispersed from Children’s Pool by the courts.

“It’s just a question of how cautious the judge is going to be,” he said, adding tha he expects the judge will set a timetable to implement the city’s plan or tell them to come up with another if he doesn’t like the one presented Friday.

Read the declaration in its entirety here