Council Votes to Keep Seals Rope Barrier

By R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, May 18, 2010  |  Updated 11:31 AM PDT
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Images: Children's Pool Controversy

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Harbor seals and birds occupy Children's Pool Beach in La Jolla, California.

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The latest installment in the La Jolla Children’s Pool seals drama happened Monday night.

In front of a packed house, the San Diego City Council voted six to two in favor of keeping the rope barrier up year-round. The proposal now goes to San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders for approval.

On Tuesday, The mayor of San Diego says he'll rope off a La Jolla seal colony again if the city attorney advises there's a coastal emergency. A spokesperson said the mayor has asked for a legal determination but it's unclear how long that will take.

From December to May, the city puts up a rope during pupping season. One local group argued that the part-time barrier wasn’t enough and asked the city to close off the beach completely to people during those 5 months.

"People get so close that they're practically sitting on the seals or trying to pet them. That's dangerous and harmful to the seals," said Animal Protection and Rescue League’s Bryan Pease.

The proposal includes having a ranger 24-hours a day, who could supervise the beach and make sure the seals aren't harassed and also ensure that visitors don't get too close to the animals.

The council also directed the city attorney's office to draft an ordinance prohibiting beach access during seal pupping season from Dec. 15 to May 15.

The ordinance would go before the City Council for consideration sometime this summer.

At times, more than 100 of the marine mammals are visible at the Children's Pool, which is polluted with their feces. Some longtime residents say the seals should be moved off the beach because it's for people.

“If you close the beach or put a barrier up, it denies access to the beach and the water which is mandated by California law," said La Jolla resident John Steel.

The rope was installed Dec. 17, 2009 after years of courtroom battles.

In November 2009, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor ruled the seal colony at Children's Pool in La Jolla to remain. He also vacated the 2005 order against the city to remove the seals and reconfigure the beach at Children's Pool.

Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofmann had previously ruled that the seals must go, in July 2009. City officials said at that time that they'd spend up to $700,000 to scare them off with the recorded sounds of barking dogs.

In his November ruling, Judge Taylor said a state law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in July, gave San Diego the power to allow the seal colony to remain. The law, which took effect in January 2010, permits the cove to be designated as a marine park.

The area has been owned by the state since it was placed in a trust in 1931, provided it be used as a "bathing pool for children."

In 1997 the city posted a warning that the cove shouldn't be used because of seal waste bacteria.
 

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