Petition signatures spike as Cove stink reaches nauseating fever pitch throughout La Jolla Village
By Pat Sherman
An online petition urging city officials and District 1 San Diego City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner to take action against the pervasive, nauseating odor smelled throughout the Village reached its intended 1,000 and will be delivered to Lightner’s office.
The stench emanating from La Jolla Cove, caused by a buildup of cormorant, pelican and sea lion excrement on rocks and the shoreline is causing tourists and customers to flee the Village, say business owners like Jim Lavi of Daniel Gift on Prospect Street.
Lavi said the smell has grown so bad the past three weeks that his customers say they will not return to the Village until the “lousy smell” is under control.
“They don’t want to stay,” he said. “We spray air freshener, but it doesn’t help. The merchants, they pay a lot to the city, but we don’t see any action.”
Lavi questions why a fire truck can’t be used to pressure wash the rocks.
On the travel website tripadvisor.com, a user from Seawall’s Point, Florida recounted her October hotel stay in the Village, noting that she specifically chose a hotel overlooking scenic La Jolla Cove.
The “outrageous, noxious odor … would come and go throughout the day and night, and honestly take your breath away,” she wrote. “If we weren’t so exhausted from traveling we would have left ASAP. … I appreciate that the hotel is not at fault, however, I cannot imagine having to smell that odor ever again.”
Signing the petition Oct. 26, La Jollan Joan Schultz called the odor “disgusting.”
“We pay more taxes to the city than most communities,” she wrote, addressing the candidates for mayor and City Council District 1. “If you want our vote, this would be a good way for you to show that La Jollans should vote for you.”
The petition, started by restaurateur George Hauer (George’s at the Cove), requests that the city address the issue posthaste.
Dan Robinette, a senior scientist with Petaluma-based PRBO Conservation Science, is part of a group currently studying La Jolla’s cormorant colony
He said he suspects that the more pungent ex- crement is coming from sea lions, though he said the smell of the cormorant (bird) excrement could be exacerbated by weather conditions.
“The cormorants may be a little more abundant than the others so they’re getting the bulk of the blame,” he said. “Starting around the mid-’90s, we did start seeing an increase of cormorant breeding along the mainland, whereas prior to that there were higher numbers out at the offshore islands.”
Though he said there has always been a Brandt’s cormorant colony at La Jolla Cove, it has grown substantially in recent years, likely due to the availability of prey such as small fish, squid and sand crabs.
“They seem pretty established from what we can see, so unless there’s some major changes in prey availability in the area, I don’t see them leaving,” Robinette said. “But who knows? … We’re just stating to document population size,” and potential disturbances to the colony by human activity, he said.
Robinette said he doesn’t believe there is any potential adverse health risks from the cormorant guano.
However, a study of fecal contamination in the salt marshes of Martha’s Vineyard by University of New Hampshire professor Stephen Jones identified cormorants as a significant source of E. coli bacteria.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, microscopic Cryptococcus neoformans fungal spores are found in the droppings of pigeons and some bird species. They can become airborne and cause lung infections or more serious diseases in those with weakened immune systems.
Though the cormorant was once nearly hunted to extinction, they now invade coastal cliffs, devouring fish and covering the coast with offal.
Several online bird deterrent providers suggest threatening-looking bird spikes as an effective deterrent, as well as mesh netting and devices that have tentacles that flail in the breeze and cause a threatening, visual distraction.
- Restaurateur starts online petition to force action on La Jolla Cove stench
- Editorial: Election Job No. 1 should be to clean the La Jolla Cove stench
- Officials stall on Cove stench cleanup in La Jolla
- Stench entrenched: deodorizing Cove will require time, money and bureaucratic buy-in
- Sherri Lightner to assemble officials to solve La Jolla Cove stench problem
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