Governor responds to La Jolla Cove stench issue; city plans to vacuum offending bird waste


La Jolla Town Council:

La Jolla Village Merchants Association:

To sign the petition urging officials to take action on the stench at La Jolla Cove, visit

and type ‘La Jolla’ in the search browser. The petition is the third on the list.

By Pat Sherman

with Ashley Mackin

Following a year of inaction by local, state and federal officials, the City of San Diego has finally devised a plan to clean odoriferous bird waste off the cliffs at the La Jolla Cove: vacuum it.

According to an e-mail from District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner’s office sources forwarded to the

La Jolla


, the city plans to “regularly vacuum up the waste that accumulates in the pools on the rocks (which biologists have determined to be the source of the worst odors) and to perform bird deterrence measures.”

The City’s Park and Recreation Department is in the process of securing approval from two federal agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to carry out the plan.

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) and San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) indicated to city officials that they could support such an approach, as it doesn’t involve the discharge of pollutants into the ocean or any new bluff development, the e-mail states.

The La Jolla Town Council (LJTC) and La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) both began the year reviving discussion of the unsavory aroma wafting from La Jolla Cove. During the groups’ January meetings it was announced that the office of Gov. Jerry Brown sent identical letters to Councilmember Lightner and County Supervisor Ron Roberts. The letters were in response to the officials’ pleas for help cutting through bureaucratic red tape that is delaying a solution to the stench coming from bird and marine mammal excrement on the rocks at the Cove.

The letter, dated Dec. 9, but not received until January, states that the governor’s office has contacted the Coastal Commission, which has been examining “environmentally responsible” solutions to eliminate the smell, “while keeping with regulatory requirements and remaining sensitive to the concerns of La Jolla citizens.”

“The Coastal Commission has informed us that they will be in touch with applicable parties in San Diego to resolve the problem in a timely and effective manner,” the letter states.

Though the letter is not a directive, noted LJTC President Cindy Greatrex, “it is Gov. Brown’s assurance that they are aware of the problem, aware that La Jollans are suffering as a result — particularly our merchants and our tourists,” she said.

A host of state and federal environmental laws that prevent human-induced runoff from entering the ocean have been the primary roadblock to managing the stench.

Questioned during the LJTC meeting as to whether radio host Mike Slater or his employer will be fined for sweeping the cormorant offal into the ocean during December’s rains, and whether community members should also try this, Councilmember Lightner cautioned others not to attempt a similar stunt (which 77 percent of respondents in a recent

La Jolla Light

readers’ poll said they support.

Lightner’s reps later told the


t the city is not pursuing fines against Slater, and that any penalties would be imposed by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Noting a recent feature story and subsequent letters to the editor in the

Los Angeles Times

about the Cove stench, LJVMA board President Phil Coller said the larger issue for La Jolla merchants is the bad publicity, which is “potentially damaging to our community in the long term.”

Until vacuuming or another solution is implemented, Coller said the community can help apply pressure by writing letters to the government agencies, the mayor and other officials. “They have to feel pressured that they’re not performing,” he said. “Everybody’s passing the buck. ... We need immediate solutions.”

Though there are approximately 47,000 residents in La Jolla, only about 1,500 have signed restaurateur George Hauer’s online petition demanding government officials solve the problem, Coller said.

Removing the fence along Coast Boulevard (added by the city in response to thrill-seekers leaping into the ocean from area cliffs) and letting people walk down onto the rocks at their own risk (which would presumably cause the birds to abandon their roost) is also being discussed, he said.

During the LJVMA meeting, Coller suggested yet another, rather unconventional solution: hiring someone with a falcon on his or her arm to stand at the cove and scare the birds off the rocks.

Greatrex noted that she obtained such training at the British School of Falconry in Vermont, and might be up for the task if government bureaucracy and finger-pointing continue to delay a solution.


District 1 Reports

• Hillel update:

Lightner told those attending the town council meeting that the draft environmental impact report (EIR) on the Hillel Jewish Student Center proposed near UC San Diego had been “withdrawn.”

Hillel’s executive director, Michael Rabkin, told the


that during the public review process it was determined that the existing residence at the site, used as Hillel’s offices, is more than 45 years old and requires a historic evaluation per the city.

Hillel has completed the analysis and included it in the EIR, which is now being recirculated so the public may review the new information and provide additional comments, Rabkin said.

“As required by CEQA, all comments received during the original and recirculated public review period will be responded to in the final EIR and considered when the project goes to public hearing,” he added.

• Lightner noted

she is now chairing the city council’s new Rules and Economic Development Committee, and serving on the council’s new Infrastructure Committee.

“We will be seeking a lot of input from the communities with respect to what you see as needs within the community for infrastructure,” she said. “I know the La Jolla community has already done quite a bit of that … and we have a list (of priorities) from the (La Jolla Community Planning Association) — but they are not the be-all-and-end-all in La Jolla, so I want you to be thinking about some of the needs here in the Village area — the parks especially.”

• Commission vacancies:

Lightner said there are also vacancies on some of the city’s more than 45 boards and commissions, which she said are being reconfigured, including the La Jolla Shores Planned District Advisory Board, the Historical Resources Board, and the Audit Committee (the latter of which has “very specific requirements.”)

“Contact my office; we’ll be glad to help you out and sponsor you,” Lightner said. For more information, call her office at (619) 236-6611 or e-mail

• Budget deficit:

Lightner said that while former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ five-year outlook showed no budget deficit, the city’s independent budget analyst came to a different conclusion.

“We will be getting those numbers soon,” Lightner said. “I would believe the independent budget analyst because the mayor did leave a few things out of his five-year outlook ... It could be about a $30 million (deficit).”

• Town Council Elections:

Trustee elections for the LJTC will be in March.

Greatrex said anyone interested in running should have attended at least three LJTC meetings in the past year. For more information, visit

Trustee Egon Kafka said interested persons should get involved with one of the LJTC’s various committees, such as its Dancing With La Jolla Stars event committee, which meets next at 5 p.m., Feb. 4 at Hennessey’s Tavern, 7811 Herschel Ave.

• Volunteer Director Needed:

It was announced that the LJTC is seeking a volunteer executive director to staff its new office at 1150 Silverado St. The new office space will save the organization more than 50 percent on its prior rent.

• Guest Speaker:

La Jolla resident, Jennifer Harris Edstrom, president of the Junior League of San Diego, offered LJTC members a presentation on her organization, which works to promote volunteerism and is open to women ages 21 and older.

The organization, whose mission includes assisting youth preparing to transition out of the foster care system, will hold its 13th annual food and wine festival fundraiser, “A Kentucky Derby Affair,” 2-6 p.m. May 4 at Ellen Browning Scripps Park. Tickets are $75 and $125.

The 84-year-old Junior League boasts more than 1,000 members countywide, and is affiliated with Voices For Children, which is in need of adults to serve as court appointed special advocates, or CASAs (about a 10-hour per month commitment).

Two out of three youth exiting the foster care system will become homeless, imprisoned, trafficked or dead within one year, Harris Edstrom said.

“That is an appalling statistic to all of us in the Junior League, as I’m sure it is to all of you,” she said. “We feel really strongly that this is an area that we can make some marked difference.”

To get involved in the Junior League or purchase tickets to the food and wine festival, visit

or e-mail

• Next Speaker:

La Jolla Historical Society Executive Director Heath Fox will be guest speaker at the town council’s next meeting, 5 p.m. Feb. 14 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. The public is invited to attend.


• LJVMA Treasurer’s Report:

Treasurer Tom Brady noted the LJVMA’s audit and taxes were completed in December. The organization must submit its budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 to the city by Feb. 1, he said.

• Farmers Open Events:

The Farmers Open PGA golf tournament is expected to draw 120,000 to 150,000 visitors to La Jolla.

To provide them with after-golf activities, the Merchants Association will present four Haute La Jolla Nights events throughout the Village, 4-9 p.m. Jan. 24-27, culminating with a beer garden in the parking lot of the new La Jolla Information Center, 1162 Prospect St.

“We know we’ve got a lot of things we’re working through … a lot of things to prove,” Fortune said of the LJVMA’s partnership with the tournament. “This is going to be our dry run; we’ll learn from it and we’ll prove ourselves.”

—Reporter Ashley Mackin contributed to this report.