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Stench with No Solution? La Jolla Cove Bird Poop Has Reached Media Mass

New York Times among outlets on the scent of environmental regulations and business concerns.

La Jolla Cove’s smell has reached New York and inspired several long-winded editorials and columns in U-T San Diego. A restaurateur’s online petition has reached 1,361 signatures.

A New York Times report Saturday carried a SAN DIEGO dateline and began: “Come here for the sights. … Or come for the sounds. … But don’t come for the smell.”

A U-T editorial Monday said: “This is ridiculous, and Mayor Jerry Sanders and Mayor-elect Bob Filner ought to say so and then demand that Gov. Jerry Brown do something about it.”

And Matthew T. Hall, a U-T columnist who lives in La Jolla, said he paid a recent visit and wrote:  “As luck would have it, the smell wasn’t bad—and hasn’t been for several days since big surf washed much of the guano into the water last week. Rocks once white were brown again.”

Hall quoted a visitor from Kansas as saying: “I go to San Francisco probably a couple times a year. Down Pier 39? That smells awful. This isn’t as bad.”

State environmental rules—called  “the epitome of regulatory stupidity” by the U-T editorial—have stymied officials from cleaning up the mess caused by birds and the resultant smell at the seal-protected beach.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner told the Times: “We tried to investigate this as an emergency request, but it hasn’t risen to the level of something like a hazardous spill, where they address it right away. We don’t get to have special regulations for bird poop.”

The Times reported that Lightner wrote Gov. Jerry Brown, saying: “La Jolla finds itself caught in a morass of state regulations—and it stinks. Literally.”

Further, she wrote:

This issue has implications not just for La Jolla and San Diego but also for the State of California. Quite simply, it proves that California’s regulations make it an impossible place to do business.

Although the “whiff at the cliff” reportedly waxes and wanes depending on the seasons and weather conditions, it represents an economic threat.

So George Hauer, owner of George’s at the Cove restaurant on Prospect Street, launched an online petition, calling for Lightner to clean up the mess.

“The cormorant colony at the La Jolla Cove has reached critical mass with their excrement,” Hauer wrote in October. “The smell is overtaking the entire village. The result is a loss of business and a potential public health disaster.”

The U-T editorial concluded:

We find it hard to fathom why environmentalists would object [to biodegradable cleaning solutions]. As explained on the web page of the State Water Resources Control Board, ‘Areas of Special Biological Significance’ need protection because they “support an unusual variety of aquatic life, and often host unique individual species. [The areas] are basic building blocks for a sustainable, resilient coastal environment and economy.”

For this to be interpreted as the Coastal Poop Protection Act is preposterous. The buildup of feces isn’t some saintly natural process that must be allowed to run its course lest there be some terrible consequence down the line. It happened because of a combination of circumstance, climate and official decisions. It’s not part of Mother Nature’s grand scheme for La Jolla Cove or the planet.

Two weeks ago, Voice of San Diego reported that Lightner’s office has asked the county Department of Environmental Health to test the air to check whether it’s hazardous, “but the county has not yet agreed.”

It quoted SDSU environmental health professor Rick Gersberg as saying the stench would need to be highly concentrated to create a substantial risk.

“My guess would be that it’s disgusting and it’s bothersome and it might even burn the eyes, but it’s probably not exerting adverse health risks,” he told Voice reporter Lisa Halverstadt.

gunella van re November 28, 2012 at 06:29 AM
why not get a fire boat out there to clean the cove? rain will wash the guano into the ocean and waves would wash it too. use a fire boat which uses sea water. this is a no-brainer

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