Schwarzenegger signs La Jolla Seal Deal Bill
Saying that even though solving the state’s budget problems was his first priority, GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger signed a measure July 20 to help resolve one of La Jolla’s most vexing crises — what to do about the enclave of harbor seals that have taken over a small cove near the intersection of Coast Boulevard and Jenner, just shy of Scripps Park.
The problem is that when San Diego was given that section of tidelands in trust in 1931, it was to be used as a coastal park and a children’s pool. The property is called “Children’s Pool Beach.”
Until the seal squatters showed up in the 1990s, the cove was a children’s pool. Whether the seals should be evicted and the cove restored to its former purpose has been the subject of a fair amount of legal wrangling.
In 2005, a Superior Court ruled that the seals must go and the site be returned to a children’s pool because that is the stated use for the property in the 1931 trust agreement. An appellate court agreed.
The seals found more sympathy in federal court, which, in 2008, blocked the city from removing the seals pending a decision on whether the seals were protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
A May 29 order from the Superior Court demanded the seal’s removal. The GOP governor said that order prompted him to sign the measure, SB 428, by Sen. Chris Kehoe, a San Diego Democrat.
Kehoe’s bill, introduced at the request of the San Diego City Council, would amend the 1931 tidelands grant to San Diego to read that the cove is a “marine mammal park for the enjoyment and educational benefit of children.”
Changing the language would allow San Diego, rather than the courts, to decide what to do with the Children’s Pool. Environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, support Kehoe’s bill as the first step in allowing the seals to stay put.
But Kehoe insists the measure is simply a way to allow San Diego to determine its own fate.
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