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Attorneys to try 11th-hour bid to save seals at La Jolla beach

July 22, 2009 |  8:20 pm

Attorneys will make one last-ditch effort, possibly two, on Thursday to persuade a judge to delay his order that the city of San Diego shoo the harbor seals from the beach at the Children's Pool in La Jolla.

If both efforts fail, the city has pledged to begin using the recorded sound of barking dogs to convince the seals to swim away.

A hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. before Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofmann, who ruled Monday that the city had until midday Thursday to remove the seals.

But hours after Hofmann made his ruling, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation giving the city the right to declare the beach a marine sanctuary and thus allow the seals to remain. The rub is that the new law doesn't become effective until Jan. 1.

City Atty. Jan Goldsmith will ask Hofmann to set aside his ruling in the wake of the governor's action. Hofmann had based his ruling on the 1931 deed that required the city to keep the beach suitable for humans. The bill sponsored by state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) eliminated that provision.

If Goldsmith fails, attorney Bryan Pease, representing a pro-seal group, plans to ask the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside Hofmann's ruling. In the past, the federal courts have sided with the pro-seal faction, noting that federal law protects the seals.

The City Council asked Kehoe to sponsor the legislation so it could settle the two-decade dispute and end the mounting legal bills.

A pro-seal group plans a vigil outside the downtown courthouse Thursday morning before and after the session in Hofmann's court.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego