Animal rights activists are planning to show up in San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday to protest a lawyer’s motion that the city of San Diego immediately disperse harbor seals at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla.
It will be yet another day in court in the long-running battle over the presence of the seals at the man-made cove, which Ellen Browning Scripps had built in the 1930s as a safe place for children to swim. Since the 1990s, it has become a birthing ground for a colony of harbor seals and contaminated with bacteria from seal feces.
The seals have become a hot-button issue in recent years, with animal rights activists who want the pinnipeds protected often clashing with groups who feel that they should be removed, and the cove cleaned up, so humans can safely swim in it again.
Tomorrow’s court protest is being led by the San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League, which has tried without success to block a court-ordered cleaning up of the cove, which would result in the removal of the seals.
In 2004, Valerie O’Sullivan, a former La Jolla resident who now lives in New Zealand, filed suit against the city, demanding that the cove be returned to its original condition. In 2005, Judge William Pate ruled in O’Sullivan’s favor and ordered the city restore the beach and cove.
The city, which unsuccessfully appealed Pate’s ruling, read it to mean that the cove must be dredged, which would result in the eventual removal of the seals. It has begun the process of completing an environmental impact report and getting the proper permits for the dredging, a process that the city says will take as long as three years.
O’Sullivan’s lawyer, Paul Kennerson, filed a motion earlier this year alleging that the city was dragging its feet on the 2005 order, and demanding that the city immediately begin the process of cleaning up the cove by dispersing the seals.
In September, Judge Yuri Hoffman, who took over the case from Pate, ruled in favor of Kennerson. He ordered that the city return to court this week to establish a specific plan for the clean-up, and sanctions if deadlines are missed.