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San Diego Sued Over ‘Foul Odor’ of Sea Lion And Bird Poop at La Jolla Cove

Above: Seals, sea lions and sea birds inhabit the rocks along the sandstone cliffs at La Jolla Cove.

Aired 12/30/13 on KPBS News.

A group called Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement is suing the city of San Diego and the state of California over the "foul odor" caused by bird and sea lion poop at La Jolla Cove.

A group called Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement is suing the city of San Diego and the state of California over the "foul odor" caused by bird and sea lion poop at La Jolla Cove.

The civil lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court on Dec. 19 on behalf of the group. The city has 30 days to respond. The smell, attributed first to bird guano and then to sea-lion poop, has long plagued the wealthy La Jolla neighborhood.


Lawsuit Against San Diego Over Sea Lion Poop

Lawsuit Against San Diego Over Sea Lion Poop

A lawsuit filed against the city of San Diego over the sea lion poop in La Jolla Cove.

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Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement is a nonprofit made up of La Jolla business owners including George Hauer, owner of George's at the Cove restaurant, and the owners of the La Valencia hotel. Attorneys Norm Blumenthal and Bryan Pease are representing them pro bono.

"The smell is a public nuisance and the city is required by law to get rid of a public nuisance," Blumenthal said. "It's as simple as that."

Pease also fought against the city to protect harbor seals at the nearby La Jolla Children's Pool, but is arguing for what could be seen as an opposite approach in this case. While Pease wants to keep swimmers away from the harbor seals in Children's Pool, at La Jolla Cove he wants the city to take down a 10-year-old fence that blocks access to the cliff the sea lions occupy.

"There are these very large, flat, rocky areas that people are denied access to. And because of that the sea lions, which have these big flippers and can climb way high up on rocks, are climbing up there way past where the waves and the water will wash away the poop," Pease said. "So they're pooping up there and the cormorants and the pelicans are doing the same thing. If people were allowed to use that area, the animals would probably poop somewhere else."

Alex Roth, spokesman for interim San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, said the city is aware of the odor problem and understands La Jolla residents and business owners' frustration.

"We have some plans we're actively working on that would address the fence issue and improve access to that area," he said.

In November, Stacey LoMedico, the city's assistant chief operating officer, wrote a memo saying it is not against city law to walk on the rocks, even though a fence is set up. The city is also considering opening the fence or installing a gate, according to the La Jolla Light.

Last May, then-Mayor Bob Filner hired a company that makes a spray containing poop-eating bacteria to clean up the bird guano stinking up the cove. But Roth said that solution worked only on bird guano, not larger sea-lion poop, and only in the short term.

"If you clean up that area, the sea lions are just going to come back there and keep pooping," he said. "The real solution is to get the sea lions away from the cliffs."

Roth said one way to keep the sea lions away is to improve access to the cliffs.

"If people do have access, sea lions might decide it's not the best place to hang out and go elsewhere," he said.

Roth added that another contributing factor is an explosion in the sea lion population in California.

Pease said he hopes the lawsuit will force the city of San Diego "to cut through the red tape" and work out a solution with the state and the California Coastal Commission, which places strict limits on what can be built and what type of cleanup can be used at the ocean's edge.

"Those cliffs are a nice space, we want to let people hang out on it," Pease said.

The cliffs likely will be even nicer if the smell goes away.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 27, 2013 at 1:47 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I seriously hate the seals down there. They have completely ruined the area. They ruined the childrens pool, a man-made beach for children, and they ruined the entire area from the cave shop to the bathrooms at the cove. It smells so disgusting there that I cannot stand it. I never go there anymore. I would never eat at any of those restaurants. On the rare occasion that I drive down the street past the cave shop I am always shocked that people are sitting there eating at the cafe with the fetid odor so strong that it is hard to breathe. How can they eat like that?

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Avatar for user 'tsaisajoke'

tsaisajoke | December 27, 2013 at 3:18 p.m. ― 3 years ago

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. "Why not sue the seals?" Some people just hate nature. Maybe they should just bring in more sharks to take care of it. It would really suck to have to appreciate your natural coastal setting. Get a life La Jollans, you can't buy everything

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Avatar for user 'AshtonIII'

AshtonIII | December 27, 2013 at 7:05 p.m. ― 3 years ago

This is one of the most pressing recent issues. We have suggested a plan to import Great White Sharks at critical sites along with Imported trained cats for bird control. The odor is ruining our wine on the veranda,Please leave other suggestions for the community to consider.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | December 28, 2013 at 7:48 a.m. ― 3 years ago

wait for a good rain

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | December 28, 2013 at 8:23 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Ohhhh the plight of the rich. Its just not fair; they dont have the skillset to just deal with it.

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Avatar for user 'frankthecrank'

frankthecrank | December 28, 2013 at 10:10 a.m. ― 3 years ago

The same crying liberals that forced Idaho, and other states to take in wolves.
Now is whining about animal odor, tough s@@t!!!!
It is different now huh?

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | December 28, 2013 at 10:35 a.m. ― 3 years ago

If this were in barrio logan it would not even make the news.

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Avatar for user 'wpstoll'

wpstoll | December 28, 2013 at 12:18 p.m. ― 3 years ago

It would be nice if KPBS and the U-T showed a little more respect for their constituents and refrained from using baby talk in their news articles. I'm sure they can find more mature language than resorting to onomatopoetic monosyllables to describe the droppings of wild animals.

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Avatar for user 'x76'

x76 | December 28, 2013 at 6:46 p.m. ― 3 years ago

This is absurd. Anchor a barge for these creatures to excrete upon and reclaim the Cove for human use. Are we all hippie-dippie-can't-hurt-a-housefly? Clean them out lock, stock and barrel. Snap out of it, people.

btw importing great white sharks (an idea from an earlier comment on this page) has real merit.

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Avatar for user 'AshtonIII'

AshtonIII | December 28, 2013 at 7:02 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Thank You, so much great commentary! Yes Frank,speaking of wolves,seals are like the coyotes of the sea,just as sea lions are the lions of,well you know..
This is unacceptable, imagine the outrage if we had lions and tigers in public pools!?We haven't even mentioned that fish,(do thier business) in the water where people swim! Until this no one even wanted to mention that the seals are in fact nude!wpstoll, I believe you meant to say onomatopoeic.These animals should be in zoos or wherever we can keep an eye on them.

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Avatar for user 'stevenuske'

stevenuske | December 29, 2013 at 12:28 a.m. ― 3 years ago

You have encroached on the seals domain , by building a Children's pool something that i bet the community of La Jolla fort for and pleaded with the city of San Diego to build .
I Live in Perth Western Australia and have visited La Jolla on several occasions , yes the smell is offensive as is the sea weed that gets washed up on our beaches , and we have some of the most pristine beaches on the planet , bordering the Indian ocean we have no pools set aside for children , and our beaches are often closed for several hrs a day because of the threat of man eating sharks in the area , such as Great whites, Hammer heads, Bull , Bronze whalers and Tiger sharks , with several deaths and attacks each year , due to the fact that we have entered there domain .

Instead of fighting the city of San Diego . why not put your heads together to come up with a solution to the problem , upon my last visit i made a comment to a friend on how simple that solution is , here is an idea why not place several large pumps underground and pump sea water over the rocks from several positions at the top of the rocks at hourly intervals creating a waterfall efect over the rocks in question , and all of this can be consealed underground and what a beautiful sight it would make as well if you added colored light during the night as well , that is of course if the wealthy people of La Jolla dont mind a one of rate increase to pay for it .......

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Avatar for user 'SanDiegoBeach'

SanDiegoBeach | December 29, 2013 at 8:37 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Sad that people care more about the stink at the beach then the homeless that are on San Diego Streets. Sad that people are willing to spend their time and thousands of dollars to bitch about the stink at the beach then help the starving people and homeless in San Diego. Sad that people worry more about birds and seals then our troops or the homeless. I can find much better ways to spend that money and help San Diego then waist it on shit!!!!!!!

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | December 29, 2013 at 7:27 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Newsflash many of the homeless don't want help. Just money for booze, food, and pot. Don't believe me; then just go ask them yourself.

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Avatar for user 'dolphinlvr'

dolphinlvr | December 30, 2013 at 4:49 p.m. ― 3 years ago

It's absurd to control the seal population by using sharks. All the animals of the sea need to be protected from becoming endangered species.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | December 30, 2013 at 7:53 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Come on people, the smell of seal poop is not natural.

Everyone known the natural smell of La Jolla is old lady Chanel parfum.

That's what the beach SHOULD smell like.

Kidding aside, get over yourselves.

Beaches and nature have smells.

This frivolous lawsuit needs to be thrown out.

And to those of you still clinging to this ridiculous "children's pool" sham, I have news for you: kids pee, poop, litter, slobber, and spit-up in pools.

Even if the city spent millions to make this some sort of beachside "children's pool" to appease the nostalgia of the crotchety cranky old coots who swam there a half century ago there would still be a need for ongoing maintenance, clean-up, and sanitary measures to clean up people waste.

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | December 31, 2013 at 8:14 a.m. ― 3 years ago

I would be curious to see how much of the courts time has been wasted by the sealtards? Could they just disappear already, we have much more important issues the courts need to tend to.

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Avatar for user 'AshtonIII'

AshtonIII | December 31, 2013 at 10:10 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Our beaches have been pristine for many years until all this,the animal rights crowd is so yesterday.Real fur is in this season.There have been so many suggestions,from chlorinating the water to keep bacteria levels down,having Navy live fire exercises off the area,loud music/lights,etc.These animals should be housed in places like SeaWorld where they can be viewed in safety,while insuring the health and happiness of the animals.

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