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Seals get reprieve; more hearings ahead

Three hearings and two courts later, yet another hearing is scheduled to discuss the terms and timelines for sand dredging Children’s Pool where the seals remain, protected by a temporary restraining order.

On top of all that, City Attorney Michael Aguirre, who entered the fray last week, said he thinks the solution lies outside the purview of the courts.

After the last hearing on Friday, he said, “We are essentially going to the legislature and going to ask them to change the legislation to make it a permissible use, the current use, that Children’s Pool is being put to,” he said.

Seal advocates are lobbying state Sen. Christine Kehoe to carry legislation to amend the 1931 law created by the state courts that put the Children’s Pool in trust. She was on the road at press time and not available for a comment.

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The pool has mostly been closed to human contact since 1997 due to a buildup of seal waste causing high bacterial counts.

Both parties will be back before Hofmann on Nov. 14.

Pushing the point

The week started on Oct. 21 with Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofmann all but agreeing with plaintiff’s attorney Paul Kennerson’s rationale that a permit was not necessary to remove the seals.

Kennerson said the seals must be removed immediately as the city’s first step in complying with the court directive requiring the pool to be returned to its previous state when it was safe for human contact.

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Hofmann, however, stopped short of ordering the immediate removal of the seals.

Then, on Oct. 22, seal advocates succeeded in getting federal court Judge William Q. Hayes to sign an order protecting the seal colony from harassment as their pupping season, from mid-December to mid-May, is near.

“This is exactly why the Marine Mammal Protection Act preempts state law,” noted Bryan Pease, pro bono attorney for La Jolla Friends of Seals which brought the suit. “A city cannot be required by a state law to destroy a federally recognized seal rookery.”

Status quo for now

The temporary restraining order says nothing can be done before Nov. 25, when a hearing will be held on setting a preliminary injunction on the matter.

On Oct. 24, the parties were back in Hofmann’s courtroom, where he accepted a 5-inch-thick packet of documents from the city detailing its plans for complying with court orders to obtain permits and set in motion efforts to clean up the pool.