Seal hearings held in state, federal courts

A state court hearing was held March 23 pertaining to seals at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool and how the city of San Diego is doing in satisfying a court-ordered dredging of the pool.

Held in closed chambers and not open to the public, the hearing’s purpose was to assess progress being made by the city of San Diego on an Environmental Impact Report and other permitting required by the order.

The city is required to clean up the pool and make it safe for human contact. Essentially, to return the pool held in a trust as a wading area for children to its 1941 condition.

On April 3, seal advocates will be back in federal court in a hearing to determine whether a temporary rope barrier at Children’s Pool separating marine mammals from humans will remain up through the seals’ pupping season, which goes through the end of May.

Both judicial actions follow a recent San Diego City Council decision to seek state legislation carried by State. Sen. Christine Kehoe, which would amend the trust governing the pool to make seal habitation an allowable use there.

Bryan Pease, an attorney representing the Animal Protection and Rescue League, noted there are some “tricky jurisdictional issues” that could cloud the court’s April 3 decision over whether the pool rope barrier is to remain up or be removed.

“It could be an odd situation,” he said. “The courts could order that the rope barrier stays, but the seals might have to be dispersed.”

Paul Kennerson, the counsel in the case of Valerie O’Sullivan vs. the city of San Diego, which is challenging the seals’ presence as an illegal use of Children’s Pool, said he will continue to oppose state legislation seeking to amend the pool’s trust status.

“They are attempting to amend a sacred document because of a passing political preference of animals before children,” Kennerson said. “There’s just something profoundly, deeply wrong with our system if this kind of reneging and noncompliance with law is allowed to survive.”