… here we go again – Judge orders City to remove seals within 72 hours

by on July 20, 2009 · 8 comments

in Environment, San Diego

UPDATE: Christine Kehoe issues press statement. (See below.)

SAN DIEGO, CA.  The tennis match over the seals at a La Jolla beach ping-pongs again.  This time, Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofman, ordered the City of San Diego to remove the seals within 72 hours.

This improbable scenario has been playing back and forth for a couple of years as each side of the warring factions gets a favorable court ruling.

It is not clear whether the City has to begin or end its dispersal of the seals from the Children’s Pool beach  within 72 hours. But it will begin sometime between now and Thursday morning.  The Mayor’s Office is posed to decide the big “when.”  But La Jollans – get ready for barking dogs from from 6 a.m. to sunset each day, possibly for years.

The Union-Tribune reported that San Diego plans to use a portable public-address system that will emit  sounds of barking dogs in order to scare off the seals, at a cost of  nearly $700,000, – most of which will go to cover the costs of having police officers present for crowd control and “public safety”, meaning ensuring that protesters don’t interfere.

Judge Yuri Hofmann, drawn out of retirement, was reportedly abrupt with the lawyers at today’s hearing, threatening heavy fines for each day the city does not act to comply with his order.  The U-T reported that Hofmann said: “It’s not the court’s job to decide the means by which the seals are dispersed, only that it be done and it be done immediately.”

According to the U-T:

The city’s plan may never actually go into effect. Pro-seal lawyers are expected to ask an appeals court for an immediate injunction – an appeal that could be strengthened if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a bill giving the City Council control over the fate of Children’s Pool.

The council would then likely declare it a seal sanctuary.

Children’s Pool is an artificial cove created by a crescent-shaped sea wall built in 1931 at the behest of La Jolla matriarch Ellen Browning Scripps. For decades, the cove provided the public easy access to nearby rocky reefs.

Seals had always been seen in the vicinity of the cove, but their numbers started to grow in the early 1990s, for reasons still unknown to scientists. Public health officials closed the beach in 1997 because of high bacteria levels from the seals’ waste. Lawsuits ensued.

Renatta Escobedo, 19, of La Jolla, organized a protest outside the court in support of leaving the seals alone. She said she was saddened by the judge’s decision.

Here’s the full article.

According to the La Jolla Light:

Attorney Bryan Pease representing the Animal Protection and Rescue League had a counterresponse ready for Hofmann’s order dispersing seals. “I am preparing an emergency motion for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to put a stay on state court Judge Yuri Hoffman’s extreme and illegal ruling that San Diego has 72 hours to disperse the seals,” said Pease in an e-mail. “This comes in the face of a near-unanimous bill passed by the state legislature that would change the wording on the 1931 Tidelands Grant to allow the seals to stay. Hoffman is legislating from the bench and engaging in extreme judicial activism.”

Check out this survey done by Competitive Edge Research & Communication.  Over 60% of respondents want the seals to remain and oppose the City removing them.

See our earlier posts on the seals here, here, and here.

Christine Kehoe issues Statement about Judge’s 72 hour Order

SAN DIEGO – Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) issued the following statement today after Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofmann ordered the City of San Diego to begin dispersing the seals from The Children’s Pool beach in La Jolla within 72 hours:

“I appreciate the urgency of this matter and have asked Governor Schwarzenegger to immediately sign my legislation, SB 428, which would give the City discretion on whether the seals stay. Judge Hofman’s order appears to be a hasty move, given that my legislation needs only the Governor’s signature to resolve this 16-year problem. The City has already spent over $1 million in legal fees, and the Judge should take into account the Legislature’s strong bipartisan effort to spare the City from spending an additional $700,000 to immediately remove the seals.”

(Thanks to San Diego Politico.)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar bodysurferbob July 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm

i guess i have to be the first to say it: judge hofmann is due for a tar and feathering – or should i say seal fecal matter and sand ? – because of his ruling. judge, go back to retirement. leave the seals alone.


avatar lane tobias July 20, 2009 at 3:48 pm

man….is there no justice for any living being anymore?


avatar Molly July 20, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Are you certain Judge Hofmann had already been retired? Perhaps you confuse him with some other judge.


avatar Frank Gormlie July 20, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Molly, you’re correct.


avatar Frank Gormlie July 20, 2009 at 5:46 pm

See new developments – latest post has it: the Gov has signed Kehoe’s bill giving authority over the seals to the City of San Diego.


avatar Michelle July 21, 2009 at 9:11 am

Driving the seals away with the sounds of barking dogs seems a bit cruel. For $700,000 you would think they could come up with something a little more wildlife friendly.


avatar Molly July 21, 2009 at 9:18 am

Michelle – you’d think, huh. But remember the concept of “wildlife friendly” is not part of the equation, as they want to drive away the wildlife.

You know, duck hunters have things that make ‘duck calls’ – perhaps the city can use the money to come up with a ‘seal call’ and use it from a boat just off shore. Hmmmm.


avatar jon July 21, 2009 at 9:29 am

From what I understand, the majority of that $700,000 price tag is being used to hire police to hang out at the beach all day and make sure the environmentalists don’t freak out, and the neanderthals don’t go harpooning seals (or environmentalists).


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