More people join lawsuit over La Jolla Cove stench; complaint amended to reflect gate installation

Artist Robert Higgins does some plein-air painting after learning that city workers installed a gate above La Jolla Cove. Higgins said he hoped his presence would also help disperse birds and sea lions from the cliffs below. “I think this is going to have a beneficial effect,” Higgins said of the gate. “It’s going to keep them from making this a sea lion hotel.” Pat Sherman

By Pat Sherman

More than 20 La Jollans have joined a nonprofit organization formed to sue the City of San Diego for failing to rid La Jolla Cove of its sickening odor.

During a morning meeting held at La Valencia Hotel on Jan. 2, those invited to the meeting paid a nominal $1 fee to become members of Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement, a nonprofit group started by George’s at the Cove owner, George Hauer, and La Valencia’s managing director, Mark Dibella.

La Jolla Shores attorney Norm Blumenthal of Blumenthal, Nordrehaug and Bhowmik filed the suit in Superior Court on behalf of the group, of which Hauer is president. Blumenthal is working on the suit pro bono.

Sources close to La Jolla Light said those invited were affiliated with La Jolla businesses, beach access advocates or community stakeholders who have been working with the city to address the odor issue.

The group’s complaint has been amended to reflect the city’s installation of a gate above La Jolla Cove, which was added to facilitate legal human access to the bluffs — an action the Dec. 20 suit initially requested as a deterrent to sea lions and seabirds gathering and defecating there.

“We’re making progress; it’s a good first start,” Blumenthal said of the gate, “but we think there also should be some handrails on the rocks if pedestrians are going to walk there, so they can have a place for sure footing, so they won’t slip and fall.”

La Jolla fire safety personnel check out a trail leading to the bluffs above La Jolla Cove. The city increased access to the bluffs on Dec. 31, 2013 by installing a gate in the fence along Coast Boulevard. Pat Sherman

Blumenthal said several people at the meeting had already accessed the gate to venture onto the bluffs. Their presence scattered the birds, but hasn’t yet had a big impact on the sea lions, he said, adding that the nuisance abatement group is in contact with a former SeaWorld pinniped trainer who claims he can train the sea lions to poop elsewhere in just 90 days, at a cost of $30,000.

The presence of humans on the bluffs “may be very good for getting rid of the birds … (but) there’s got to be some additional action with regard to the sea lions to change their behavior,” he said. “The smell’s still there and the sea lions are still there. The city needs to retain or appoint from their staff a marine mammal supervisor to make a determination as to what else needs to be done to discourage the sea lions from being on the rocks.”

Dibella said the primary goal of the suit is to ensure the city takes action to eradicate the stench “in a timely manner.”

Though he also views the gate as a good first step to solving the problem, Dibella said he was disappointed that the city installed it without first notifying merchants and residents.

“They city says they’re communicating with local merchants, but they’re not,” he said, adding that if residents in his East County community were overrun by coyotes, the problem would be swiftly addressed by animal control.

Several meeting attendees told La Jolla Light that a lock was placed on the gate the morning of the meeting, though it was later cut, reportedly by an employee of a local business owner.

Jill Esterbrooks, a spokesperson for the office of District 1 City Council representative Sherri Lightner, said city workers changed the apparatus on the gate so that a lock cannot be placed on it in the future.

Esterbrooks said the lock was not placed on the gate by the city, and that “there’s no intention for there to be a lock on there ever.

“If the lifeguards for some reason down the line need to close that gate, they will use some sort of a chain to secure it,” she said.

La Jolla beach access proponent Melinda Merryweather, who attended the meeting at La Valencia, said she is pleased that the gate is now in place — something she has advocated for several years — though she believes installing ocean-water spraying sprinklers on the bluffs should also be employed as a seal lion deterrent (one of several legal remedies available under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act).

Ken Hunrichs, president of the pro-beach access group Friends of the Children’s Pool, attended the meeting and joined the nuisance abatement group. Hunrichs said he supports “the objective to clean up La Jolla through better wildlife management along the entire coast, and not just at the Cove.”

“This lawsuit may have too narrow a focus, but it is a start to reestablishing common sense to the whole situation of pinnipeds in La Jolla,” he said.

Related posts:

  1. La Jolla Cove Stench: City to reveal fence removal decision Nov. 15 in effort to thin sea lion colony
  2. Gate Goes In: City creates access to La Jolla Cove cliffs
  3. Business owners sue city over La Jolla Cove odor caused by sea lions and bird waste
  4. La Jolla Cove odors return after summer reprieve, city cites sea lions as the source
  5. Governor responds to La Jolla Cove stench issue; city plans to vacuum offending bird waste

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Posted by Pat Sherman on Jan 7, 2014. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

11 Comments for “More people join lawsuit over La Jolla Cove stench; complaint amended to reflect gate installation”

  1. NoGods

    Can’t the State or Federal Governments come to the defense of the birds and seals? Is there a group I can send a donation to toward defending these animals against the monied interests in La Jolla?

  2. Bill

    I went down on the rocks yesterday evening around 5:30 p.m. Most of the sea lions are now on the lower-level rocks, which is a good start. Eventually, the presence of humans will encourage them to move along to another spot.

    Remember: The gate access has only been available for one week. Within another week or so, I predict the sea lions will have moved to another spot along the coast.

    Let’s continue to access these bluffs on a daily basis. Anyone who tells you it’s unlawful to access the rocks is flat-out lying. Ignore them.

    Again, let’s get a group of people to go out there as often as possible.

  3. James Fischer

    Is it just me, or would the tourists prefer a few sea lions and birds to shopping for overpriced rugs and chunky gold tchochkes? Let’s face it, without the sealife, La Jolla is little more than a snobby sidewalk.

    • Bill

      Your condition is called sour grapes: you disparage what you can’t have.

      Sour grapes = Denial of the desirability of something after one has found out that it cannot be reached or acquired.

  4. Bryan Pease

    Please note, those of us working on rectifying the La Jolla Cove odor issue are NOT working with East County, anti-seal nut Ken Hunrichs or his “Friends of the Children’s Pool” organization. He crashed this meeting and stormed out when he was told in no uncertain terms the harbor seals (different issue and different area) aren’t going anywhere. The article, while technically accurate in that he did attend the meeting, has left some people with the wrong impression that he is somehow involved or that we are working with him. We are not.

  5. Ken Hunrichs

    I was notified late last night about a derogatory Facebook/Twitter posting put out by attorney Bryan Pease naming me specifically, as well as organizations I am affiliated with. It has been in part, repeated here. Unfortunately, such irresponsible comments, disclosing the discussions at private meetings about issues of an organization Pease supposedly represents, can serve as an unnecessary distraction from the important cause of abating the nuisance odor at La Jolla Cove. I wholeheartedly support the efforts of the La Jolla community and Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement as they were outlined by attorney, Norm Blumenthal, in our meeting last week. I was invited to join the meeting and am now a proud member of the organization, Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement. I did not “crash” the meeting as has been characterized nor did I leave before the end of the meeting as Pease has claimed. Pease is misinformed as he did not attend the meeting.

    I have long understood that the explosion of marine mammal populations along the coastline of La Jolla can threaten human access to beaches and bluffs and impact our quality of life through the creation of objectionable odors and degraded water quality. Pease is a more recent convert to this positive way of thinking. I welcome his efforts when they are directed to benefit the organization of citizens and business interests trying to rescue La Jolla from quite literally being buried in marine mammal feces.

    The concept that regular use and human presence can restore a balance of uses of our beaches and bluffs is one that I join Bryan Pease in supporting. I therefore decline to respond to Pease’s comments other than to confirm my membership in the organization as well as my presence at the entire meeting last week and reiterate my support for the solution put forth by the Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement.

    Ken Hunrichs

    Member, Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement

  6. Bob Ewing

    “I recently became aware of comments put out by attorney Bryan Pease on facebook and twitter concerning a meeting of the Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement. I was shocked when I read the comments. I can simply shake my head at an attorney who damages and brings ridicule on the organization he represents by calling a member of that organization an “anti-seal nutjob”. This characterization strikes me as unworthy of a member of our State Bar Association.

    By way of information, I was forwarded an invitation to attend a private meeting in La Jolla hosted by the Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement. This organization was newly formed and the purpose of the meeting was to further explain the lawsuit and invite new members to join the organization through a formal process including signing forms, paying membership fees and receiving a certificate of membership. Several business owners, residents and interested persons attended the meeting including Ken Hunrichs, who was also invited. At this meeting, it was explained that Norm Blumenthal would represent the organization pro-bono and that he had signed on Bryan Pease to assist in the case as a fellow pro-bono attorney. When Bryan Pease was mentioned, there were several questions about his apparent conflict-of-interest and his sudden change of heart in suddenly recognizing the dangers the presence of Marine Mammals in large numbers on urban beaches and bluffs could cause.

    Although I support the efforts of the Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement and applaud their proposed solution of enhancing human access to the beaches and bluffs of La Jolla, I was worried about Pease’s seeming recent conversion as noted in several news articles on the subject. Unfortunately, the distinction Pease makes between sea lions and seals is not a distinction supported by the law which applies equally to all Marine Mammals (see MMPA). Additionally, the contention by Bryan Pease that seals prefer sandy beaches and sea lions prefer rocky areas is neither supported by facts or the evidence of seal habits in La Jolla. I note that the seals long settled on “seal rock” prior to being pushed further south to the Children’s Pool by an expanding sea lion population which now occupies the seals former territory. A simple google search of “seal haul out behavior” will list numerous sources demonstrating that Pease’s distinction between seals and Sea Lions is false. Visiting the Wikipedia page for “hauling-out” will show two pictures with the second clearly showing harbor seals (the same species as at the Children’s Pool) on a rocky bluff similar to La Jolla Cove ( Visiting the Sea World website concerning harbor seal behavior, you will find the following discussion, “Harbor seals often haul out onto rocks or beaches”. In other words, very simple research and fact checking will quickly dismantle Pease’s false distinction between harbor seals and sea lions which he uses to justify his apparent conflict-of-interest. The only thing he correctly stated was that sea lions and seals are two different species. However, the impacts to human access, nuisance odors and water pollution are common to both species.

    In considering joining a group that is represented by an attorney who has such an obvious conflict that virtually every media outlet in town has asked him about it and who feels compelled to attack members of an organization he represents, I decided that I could not, in good conscience join such an organization. As a result, I stated my support for the goals of the Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement and I left the room part-way through their meeting. I can only assume that the person Pease references in his comments as “stormed out” of the meeting was not Ken Hunrichs but was meant to refer to myself. Rather than “storming out” as Pease characterized it, I left the room when it was apparent that I could not join the organization. Since they were discussing internal strategy, once I realized that I could not join, I felt that I could not in good conscience remain in the room. Although, I could not join the organization because of the behavior of their attorney, I remain supportive of their goals as a resident of the City of San Diego and a person who has been impacted by the smell and nuisance caused by the ongoing overpopulation of marine mammals in La Jolla.”

  7. The NOAA West Administrator for Protected Resources updated the City last week. They do not “require that beaches be closed or that people maintain any specific distance from animals”. “Complete closure of Children’s Pool is not necessary” “The ideal solution to this type of conflict is one of shared use…” Pease’s suit forced the City to seek looser rules from the feds. Looks like they got more than they bargained for.

  8. There is an explosion of pinnepeds all along the La Jolla Coastline. Sea World makes a lot of money off these creatures, it is their business. Really NOAA should have stepped in long ago. In Cape Cod on the E.Coast their seal population has exploded far past ours, to the thousands. The fecal contamination is out of control and the stench is renching so that seal viewing is not so popular anymore. Their fish stocks will never recover and the fecal contaminination has killed off species, just like at the Childrnen’s Pool. Where are the mussels? ” Eaten. Mussels are an indicator species that all tide pool creatures eat. So where are the Tide Pool Creatures Gone. Sea hares, sea cucumbers, sea stars, crabs, devoured. 197 species on the seal menu. Garibaldi I’d say about 1/5 of the population a year or so ago. Garibaldi are protected. Seals are at the same danger stage as common pidgeons, that is a fact. To love a seal is to love their home the ocean. And unless you go under the ocean and are familiar with the devistation you do not understand that the explosion of these beautfiul creatures is overpowering all others. The ocean is about balance. Our ecologoical balance is off , way off and will continue to decline unless population controls are instituted now. Restore the Children’s Pool, open the sluiceways, the reports to do so done in 2004 are completed. Easty to do. Make it back into a pool , clean with the sluceways open. Plant sea stars on the inner submerged wall and on the rocks, and get sea stars propigating again. Scripps and Birch could do this, and follow in their benifactors vision for the Children’s Pool. Give disabled children and others the chance to snorkel in a fullly restored POOL, not mean to be a beach. And lets put San Diego on the ADA Map of the World. A sparkeling clean Paciic Ocean ADA Pool with a great ramp, will bring reat tourists and so such a good reason. Lets improve the repuation of San Diego to support Challenged Athletes and Wounded Warriors. They’d come for the only safe entry to the real Paciific Ocean and stay in La Jolla Hotels, and eat at places with a sweet and clean ocean breaze, not e coli bacteria from a Children’s Pool Beach that can not wash clean for the breakwater. There are years of fecal polluation in that sand, behnd the rope. Kids are forced to literally play in seal poop mixed with sand. And where is the ADA Access to the water folks? The Children’s Pool was built for toddlers and for ‘those handicapped in life’s game”( E.Scripps 1932) In 1988 City Manager Ray Gotch was goind to use transieit Occupany taxes avaialbe to concrete the ramp to “improve current wheelchair access” See article in the La Jolla LIght dates 1984 & 1988. What happened Did La Jolla and San Diego put an over population of seals priority over Disabled Veterans, disabled children, Challenged Athletes who have to be carried up stairs at the Cove when one blcok south they can roll down a ramp to the water? We have 16000 new severely wounded warriors just from the Iraq and Afgan wars missing multiple limbs. There simply is no other safe ocean pool entry, The Children’s Pool is the one and only one in the continetal United States. And the seals will still be there , just haul out on a natural beach that washes clean. They’d perfer a cleaner environment as well. Please support the disabled and vote to restore Children’s Pool, sand dredged and sluice ways open. For less than the cost of one bomb, we can restore this Ocean Pool and serve those for whom the bombs have blown apart. This will help businesses immensely. Sparkeling clean ocean pool, or seal toilet? Walk on the wall and see a clean pool on your right with disabled finally able to enjoy the real ocean, a few seals swimming with them as they are part of the therapy, look to the left and see seals on the reef and at South Casa their natural beach they are already hauling out on. and Seal Rock, and all along the wallk way, seals and sea lions cn now be seen. Children’s Pool was meant to be a pool. Its only concrete and rebar and sand. Lets remember what it was built for and the ramp there one of the firt to the water and the last remaining. This is marketable as well. Clean places with purpose are always better than stench that Casa Manana has to put up with.

    Just follow the well written La Jolla Coastal Plan, which shows a Dedicated Vertical Easement to the water at Children’s Pool Ramp used as the Primary access , not the stairs for decades, paved and wheelchair friendly. San Diego and La Jolla have forgotten this and the disabled. Please remember us and allow us to have the Children’s Pool back as intended for us. Thank you.

  9. ben

    If georges cooking was all its cracked up to be, he wouldnt need the ocean view.

  10. Bill

    The gate is a joke. It’s totally hidden from view. Passersby don’t even know of its existence. Why paint it white so as to make it blend in with the rest of the gate, thus discouraging people from going down there? Get rid of the gate; just leave an open space so people can come and go as they please. This has the added benefit of preventing saboteurs from tinkering with the gate/lock, etc. After all, the City has said we are all free to go down there at any time!

    Mr. Blumenthal, please include in your lawsuit a demand for an open space or, alternatively, a gate which is clearly maked and identified as such.

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