SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The issue of whether a rope barrier should be a year-round fixture to keep the public away from harbor seals at Children's Pool in La Jolla remains on hold, after a judge Friday sent the matter back to the City Planning Commission for clarification.

The Animal Protection and Rescue League of San Diego sued the city, asking Judge Lisa Foster to set aside the Planning Commission's denial of the City Council's decision to allow the rope to be a permanent fixture at Children's Pool.

But Foster ruled today that there were huge gaps and a lack of explanation in the Planning Commission's decision that the request by seal supporters to keep the rope barrier up year-round didn't meet specific requirements for issuing a coastal development permit.

The judge said that in the meantime, the rope can't go back up during non-pupping season because there's no permit in place.

Foster strongly urged both sides to try to resolve the issue with the City Council and Planning Commission and keep it out of the court system.

"This is quintessentially a political issue now," the judge said. "I think this belongs back in City Hall, not in the Hall of Justice."

Bryan Pease, the attorney for the Animal Protection and Rescue League, said that if the Planning Commission makes the same decision again, the case will be back in court. If the Planning Commission approves the City Council decision, the matter will go to the state Coastal Commission, Pease said.

People who want Children's Pool left for seals have for years battled with people who believe the area should be maintained for swimmers, as was the original intent of philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps when she deeded the site to the state of California.