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Seals on La Jolla beach give San Diego a legal headache

May 27, 2009 |  2:18 pm

A San Diego Superior Court judge today reaffirmed his ruling that the city must rid the Children's Pool beach in La Jolla of seals so it again is clean enough for families.

But Judge Yuri Hofmann delayed until June 15 a full hearing on the city's proposal to use loud noise and sprays of water to chase the 100-plus seals off the beach. The city has put the cost at nearly $700,000 a year.

"While we respect the court and will obey its orders, we believe the costs and disruption of attempting to remove the seals at this point is unnecessary," City Atty. Jan Goldsmith said.

Still unresolved, however, is whether a restraining order issued by a federal court judge will trump Hofmann's ruling.

Seal supporters are hoping the federal court prevails. Litigants who want the seals removed so children can play on the beach are hoping Hoffmann wins.

Hofmann is enforcing the deed under which the city gained control of the beach in the 1930s. The deed says the beach must be kept clean for use by children.

But the federal court has cited the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which says that seals should be left alone.

The city government, caught between the two sides, would like the politically divisive issue to go away. A bill in the state Legislature to change the deed has passed the Senate and is awaiting action by the Assembly.

If the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), passes and is signed by the governor, the city could walk away from the issue, leave the beach to the seals and avoid future legal fees.

--Tony Perry