La Jolla Cove Stench: City to reveal fence removal decision Nov. 15 in effort to thin sea lion colony

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La Jolla Village Merchants Association Executive Director, Sheila Fortune, and George's at the Cove owner, George Hauer, view a sea lion colony at La Jolla Cove that city officials say has caused the stench to return to the Village in full force. "What we have now is a health menace," Hauer said. Pat Sherman photos

By Pat Sherman

Merchants and residents fed up with the embarrassing stench that returned to La Jolla Cove in recent months met with government officials last week, at which time they were told that the public is free to jump the fence above the Cove and walk down onto the cliffs — a favored community solution to eliminate defecating birds and sea lions (and their smelly waste) from La Jolla Cove.

Mark Dibella, managing director for La Valencia Hotel said that by deterring people from walking on the rocks, the fence has created a safe haven for marine mammals and birds to colonize.

“Hence, (we go) back to a question we’ve had for a year-and-a-half,” Dibella said. “Is the fence legally required to be there? They literally said during that entire meeting, ‘Anybody can hop the fence — we wouldn’t stop you.’ ”

So that’s just what George’s at the Cove owner George Hauer did on Friday, Nov. 1, and again on Nov. 6.

Hauer, who started an online petition last year to spur city officials to address the Cove odor problem, is among a growing group of residents and business leaders — including Dibella and La Jolla Cove Suites owner Krista Baroudi — who are unified in their belief that removing the fence (or adding a gate to it) would diminish the presence of the birds and sea lions by providing public access to the bluff.

During Hauer’s first trek onto the cliffs, a local animal rights activist filmed him and sent the video to a local TV news station. On Nov. 6, when he walked onto the cliffs again, Hauer was asked by lifeguards to come up from the beach, and was questioned by three uniformed police officers.

“Why are we wasting police officers’ and lifeguards’ time because some old man walks down onto the bluffs?” Hauer asked. “The seal fanatics are driving all this … and that’s who the politicians are afraid of.”

San Diego Police Northern Division Lt. Tom Underwood said on Nov. 6 lifeguards were alerted to “a male that was out past the railing yelling and screaming at the sea lions, (adding that) some of the sea lions had flushed back into the ocean and some of the birds had flown away.”

Though neither lifeguards nor police witnessed Hauer yelling at sea lions, Underwood said officers informed him of a municipal code section pertaining to the harassment of wildlife.

“That was the section he was told he could potentially have been in violation of,” Underwood said. “It had nothing to do with him being out on the rocks. It had to do with his (alleged) behavior on the rocks.”

Lifeguard spokesperson Maurice Luque confirmed that lifeguards have not been instructed to keep people from walking on the rocks, “unless they’re putting themselves at risk because of breaking surf or high tide conditions … or if the lifeguards interpret their actions as being harassment of a (sea lion).”

Luque said lifeguards called police because they were concerned that a group of people monitoring Hauer could decide to retaliate against him.

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