Issue of malodorous Cove prompts lawsuit against city
by Dave Schwab
Jan 02, 2014 | 10863 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city installed a gate in the fence at La Jolla Cove on Dec. 31 with the hope that as more visitors are encouraged to venture out onto the rocks, the groups of sea lions and birds that have gathered — and defecated — on the cliffs will begin to retreat, taking with them the stench that has plagued the area for years. JIM GRANT
The city installed a gate in the fence at La Jolla Cove on Dec. 31 with the hope that as more visitors are encouraged to venture out onto the rocks, the groups of sea lions and birds that have gathered — and defecated — on the cliffs will begin to retreat, taking with them the stench that has plagued the area for years. JIM GRANT
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Will allowing the public access to cliffs above La Jolla Cove dissuade sea lions from congregating there and alleviate or solve the ongoing problem of foul-smelling marine mammal and bird waste buildup?

The answer may soon be “blowing in the wind” as the city has bowed to public pressure, installing a gate Dec. 31 in the fence on the Cove bluffs, which for years has deterred visitors from stepping onto the rocks above where sea lions in ever-larger numbers are hauling out.

Responding to recent developments at La Jolla Cove, District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said it has been “legal for people to walk on the bluffs,” despite the fact that the fence has been up for more than a decade.

“As a long-time advocate for the protection of public views and physical access to our beaches and coastline, I have supported installing a gate in the fence at La Jolla Cove,” she said.

Nonetheless, Lightner urged residents and visitors alike to “be cautious when accessing the area because the bluffs can be unstable and slippery, and to be careful not to harass or disturb the marine mammals and winged wildlife.”

Long term, Lightner said she supports developing a citywide coastal management plan to deal with the proliferation of seals, sea lions and migratory birds along San Diego’s 26-mile coastline.

Lightner said she will push for city funds to be included in the upcoming budget cycle to develop a plan that could incorporate best practices from other California municipalities like Pacific Grove, Carpinteria and San Francisco that deal with similar challenges of balancing the needs of people and marine animals.

“I will continue working with interim Mayor Gloria and city staff to address coastal-access issues, as well as odor problems related to the growing populations of birds and marine mammals,” said Lightner.

In other developments with the Cove stench problem, a group of La Jolla merchants known as Citizens For Odor Nuisance Abatement have banded together and filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against the city of San Diego and Gloria seeking to both abate the odor problem and open the fence up on the bluffs.

Norman Blumenthal, founding partner of Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmilk, who is representing the La Jolla citizens’ group, said his clients felt the odor problem has gotten to the point where something needed to be done to spur action to alleviate it.

“The best analogy is if you had an open sewer in front of your home and the city refused to fix it,” Blumenthal said. “We’ve been 2 ½ years down this road and the problem with the odor has not been abated. The city, as the owner of these rocks, is responsible for them. It’s a public nuisance and it’s awful.”

Claude-Anthony Marengo, incoming president of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, said the group will vote at its Jan. 8 meeting on whether to support the lawsuit filed by La Jolla merchants against the city seeking redress of the Cove stench problem.

Marengo noted the situation at the Cove is complex.

“Once you get past the barrier (fence) issue, you’ve still got to deal with the smell,” he said.

Blumenthal said people thus far have been disappointed by the city’s response to the problem.

“I think their excuses smell like rotten fish,” he said.
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