Seal backers propose deal to city

Lawyers for an environmental group on Monday proposed a settlement deal seeking to permanently prevent the removal of the harbor seals from the Children’s Pool in La Jolla.

The proposal attempts to block a state court judge from requiring the city to dredge the Children’s Pool to remove the colony of harbor seals that live there, according to Bryan Pease, an attorney for the La Jolla Friends of the Seals and Animal Protection and Rescue League.

The City Council was hearing public testimony Monday afternoon and was expected to consider the settlement deal during a closed-session meeting on Tuesday, Pease said.

If the city agrees to the settlement, no dredging could occur at the beach or any seals be removed without obtaining a permit under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The City Council would also call on Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, to sponsor state legislation amending a 1931 state law to designate the Children’s Pool as habitat for the seals.

“We believe that this proposal benefits the city financially as well as the vast majority of the public who don’t want the seals disturbed,” Pease said. “For a permanent solution, the state legislature needs to clarify the 1931 law being used by a state court judge to order the seals dispersed. To do that, the city should make the request.”

Last year, a Superior Court judge ordered San Diego to restore the Children’s Pool to its “pre-seal” condition by dredging the beach, in compliance with the 1931 state law that ceded the area to the city if it was used as a bathing pool for children.

A federal judge later approved a request for a temporary restraining order made by La Jolla Friends of the Seals.

The restraining order prohibits the city from doing anything to remove the seals. It also granted a request from the seal protection group to install a rope barrier to keep humans away from harbor seals during the pupping season.

As part of the proposed settlement, attorneys for Friends of the Seals agreed to waive their right to seek legal fees.