It takes a Village: Merchants call on Town Council to join Cove stench fight

By Ashley Mackin

La Jolla Village Merchants Association Director Sheila Fortune took center stage at the La Jolla Town Council meeting Nov. 14, to update members about the infamous stench situation at the Cove. She surprised some with the charge that, at this point, La Jollans must take matters into their own hands.

Fortune explained what people could do about the sea lion population causing the noxious odors. First, she said, they can walk on the bluffs to deter the sea lions from resting there.

“I got a letter last week from the city letting us know it is legally OK for people who would like to cross over the fence there to go onto the bluffs,” she said. “But if you do that, do not yell, scream or bother any of the wildlife on the rocks.” This admonition in reference to allegations that restaurateur George Hauer was yelling at sea lions during his Nov. 6 stroll on the bluffs.

“The Merchants Association does not want to push all the wildlife away, we just want to find a nice balance so we can live in a healthy environment, but also have our tourists enjoy the sea life and our beaches,” Fortune said.

She told the council the City Attorney’s office is considering creating a gate in the fence at the Cove to make it clear that public access is allowed. A decision was expected on the gate Nov. 15, but it was delayed to sometime this week.

Town Council President Cindy Greatrex said in support, “When you put the fence up, you took away the predator. When you take away the predator, you have more breeding and more feeding, and then after feeding comes more — (excrement creating the offensive smell).”

Fortune said, “The seal lions are coming up higher on the rocks and the bluffs so the water does not come up to wash (the excrement) off. It has gotten really bad. We are looking to find a solution.” To this, council trustee Joseph Pitrofsky asked, “Do you guys have some sort of deadline? We have to resolve this situation. If we keep talking to the city council, they’ll talk to the state and the coastal commission and this could go on for years and years. What’s to stop it from being six or nine or 12 years (before something gets done)? We have to have a date.”

Instead of focusing on one date, Fortune asked trustees to call the city every day. “Get on the phone with your city council representatives,” she said. “You guys need to pitch in and call your city government.” Then she cited a recent TripAdvisor review that read, “If your city government does not handle this, you will become a ghost town.”

Pitrofsky posed another question, “Does (City Councilmember) Sherri Lightner not care? Why don’t we invite the council to have a meeting at the Cove? They might think this is a minor, gee-I-might- smell-something thing, (until they get here).”

Fortune responded that whenever she approaches the city with requests for funding, the requests often fall on deaf ears. “They say, ‘you have it all. You don’t need our money. You don’t need our time,’ ” she said. “You guys have got to get angry. You guys have got to get noticed. We are doing everything we can to fight this issue, but it’s going to take the entire Village to conquer this.”

In other Town Council news

■ Dancing with the Stars

First Vice President Nancy Gardener, after touting the success of the La Jolla Dancing with the Stars fundraiser, reported she received an e-mail from the director of catering at the Hilton where the event was held. “I’ve seen a lot of fundraising events, but boy did you have really engaged guests at this one,” she read. “The dancers were amazing and so much fun to watch, and the judges were witty, too. What a terrific evening and a sellout to boot.”

She said the police are running the financials for the event and would provide a total soon on how much was raised. “We don’t have a final count by tonight’s meeting, but we will at the next meeting,” she said.

■ Coastal Access and Parking

Gardener also reported, as a member of the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board, that the list of 10 suggestions the group feels would best solve parking and traffic problems in La Jolla, has been narrowed down to four. Those suggestions will circulate to other community groups for feedback.

— The La Jolla Town Council next meets 5 p.m. Dec. 12, at the La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.