Lawsuit demands city eliminate stink on rocks at La Jolla Cove

Birds sit on the rocks at La Jolla Cove. The stink left behind has sent visitors fleeing and caused restaurants and hotels to lose money, a lawsuit alleges.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

SAN DIEGO -- A lawsuit has been filed demanding the city eradicate the “foul, noxious and sickening odors” left by birds and sea lions defecating on the rocks next to La Jolla Cove.

The stink offends the patrons of some of La Jolla’s best known restaurants overlooking the cove and visitors to the famed La Valencia Hotel, according to the lawsuit filed by a group calling itself Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement.

The group’s president is George Hauer, owner of George’s At The Cove, one of the city’s premiere dining spots.


The smell is costing restaurants and hoteliers money, the lawsuit alleges.

Champion boxer Floyd Mayweather and his entourage booked two villas and six rooms at the La Valencia Hotel but then left after 15 minutes because of the smell, the lawsuit alleges:

“That is over $5,000 in one day’s rooms revenue that walked in and out of the La Valencia Hotel as a result of the noxious smell emanating from the cliffs.”

While the stinky guano is the product of the cormorants and the sea lions, the real culprits are officials at City Hall who approved a fence keeping people away from the rocks where the birds and mammals hang out, the lawsuit said.

If the fence were not there, people would scamper down to the rocks and the birds and marine mammals would depart to defecate elsewhere, the lawsuit says.

The problem has vexed city officials for two years. One problem is that federal law protects the marine mammals from being harassed.

Then-Mayor Bob Filner hired a Northern California environmental cleanup firm for $50,000 to cleanse the rocks. In his resignation speech Aug. 23, he listed elimination of the stink as one of his accomplishments.


But in recent months, the smell has returned. The sea lions’ preference for pungent anchovies “makes the smell much worse than it might otherwise be,” the lawsuit says.

Initial reaction to the lawsuit by city officials was not altogether positive.

“Litigation doesn’t help these kinds of things,” Acting-Mayor Todd Gloria told KFMB. “Frankly it’s just another barrier to solving the problem that needs to be solved.”

The group is seeking a hearing in San Diego County Superior Court to demand that the city take down the fence keeping people from the rocks.


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