San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has ordered the Children's Pool beach in La Jolla closed at night after viewing a surveillance video of people "harassing, taunting and causing stress" to mother seals and their pups on the beach under the cover of darkness.
"The behavior was shocking, reprehensible and certainly not a reflection of how most citizens in this fine city believe animals should be treated," Filner said in issuing the emergency order this week.
Under the order, the beach will be closed from sunset through sunrise until May 15, considered the end of the pupping season.
A group called Friends of the Children's Pool, which believes the city has tilted too far in supporting the seals over people, is seeking a court order overturning Filner's order. A hearing is set for April 12 in Department 66 of the San Diego County Superior Court.
Soon after taking office, Filner ordered a surveillance camera installed to monitor the beach, day and night. The video shows what appears to be two women sitting on the seals and kicking them.
City Atty. Jan Goldsmith, while noting that Filner did not contact him before issuing the order, said he stands ready to defend the order in court.
"I have seen the videos of the seal abuse and I am appalled," Goldsmith said. "Once we receive information as to the identity of these perpetrators, they will be brought to justice."
For two decades, opposing sides have battled in court and the political realm over the presence of the seals on the horseshoe-shaped beach. One group says the seals should be allowed to remain and be protected; the other says the beach is meant for children and the seals and their droppings imperil public health and restrict access to the tranquil water.
Also at issue in the court hearing will be the rope installed by the city to keep the public away from the seals during pupping season. Friends of the Children's Pool assert the rope exceeds the length permitted by a Coastal Development Permit.
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--Tony Perry in San Diego