Sherri Lightner to assemble officials to solve La Jolla Cove stench problem

By Pat Sherman

District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner made the rounds of La Jolla’s community advisory group meetings this month, offering updates on issues key to The Village.

Chief among them was the pervasive odor emanating from La Jolla Cove area, caused by a buildup of bird guano and marine mammal excrement on the bluff.

Lightner said within the next few weeks her office will schedule a meeting with representatives from government agencies with a stake in the issue, as well as a company whose nontoxic, biodegradable product some have suggested using to rid the rocks of their stench. They include San Diego’s Park and Recreation department, the California Coastal Commission, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and Costa Mesa-based Bio-Organic Catalyst.

Though several of the agencies previously said responsibility for the reek — and management of the bluff — was not in their purview, Lightner said she confirmed this month that the bluff is under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission.

“All we need to do now is get the Coastal Commission and the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s approval,” Lightner said during the Sept. 6 meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (CPA).

Though Bio-Organic Catalyst’s product, EcoSystem Plus, has been approved for use in an East Coast river, nothing similar to it has been approved for use on the West Coast, she said. “They (East Coast agencies) don’t have quite the protective requirements that California does, (but) we have a very good group of people working on this,” Lightner said, noting that the city or community members would first need to obtain a permit from the California Coastal Commission to spray the rocks. “We make progress every week. We’re not taking too many steps backward.”

CPA trustee Fran Zimmerman asked why San Diego firefighters couldn’t make “periodic runs past that area and spray the rocks with water blasts, rather than chemicals.”

“You can’t have fire trucks just do that; we have regulations for storm water and best management practices,” Lightner said. “If we were to do that, we’d be in for some heavy-duty fines.”

Zimmerman pressed: “There’s no possibility of a waiver or exemption or mercy based on the amount of community fallout from the present condition?”

“We can add that to our list,” Lightner said. “When we go see the Coastal Commission, since this is under their jurisdiction, maybe they’d be amenable to having a water truck.”

During the Sept. 12 meeting of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA), the organization discussed the status of its resolution beseeching government officials to get the odor problem under control. The resolution opines that it is the government’s responsibility to “eliminate the odor safely, effectively and expeditiously, ... not primarily that of the La Jolla business community.”

“It appears to be a simple problem with a simple solution, but it’s apparently not, involving various agencies,” LJVMA trustee Tom Brady said.

La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. Chairman Patrick Ahern said the city probably would not be amenable to paying for the odor eradication.

“We do have some people coming up with some money, and the solution is interesting,” Ahern said.

La Jolla attorney Mark Evans noted that Bio-Organic Catalyst’s product, which reduces the excrement to its key organic compounds, has been found to be harmless to plant and animal life, and has received a permit from a New York state agency similar to California’s Regional Water Quality Control Board for discharge into a trout-bearing river.

“It’s been used around the country in both industrial and municipal waste water (applications),” he said, noting that the product would likely cost around $10,000 a year if used on a regular basis.

“The problem is getting government officials to approve it,” Evans said, nothing the “inevitable inertia” of government bureaucracy. “Nobody wants to be the first to do something that hasn’t been done in California on rocks near the ocean.”

“We’ll be the first,” Lightner maintained. “We’re taking care of bringing all the parties to the same table.”

Resolution on Wall Street post office headed to City Council

Lightner also said she also would send a resolution to her colleagues on the San Diego City Council, seeking their signatures in support of Congresswoman Susan Davis’ Community Post Office Relocation Act. The legislation would allow a community non- profit, such as the La Jolla Historical Society, the initial opportunity to purchase its community post office and then lease all or part of the space back to the United States Postal Service. The resolution should come before the city council in October.

Commission to hear seal rope issue Sept. 27

The San Diego Planning Commission is set to consider an appeal of the city’s earlier approval of a Site Development Permit to install and maintain a year-round rope barrier at The Children’s Pool in La Jolla. The barrier is intended as a buffer between humans and seals. City staff has recommended denying the appeal (and allowing the year-round rope). The meeting will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 27 in San Diego City Council chambers, 202 C Street, 12th floor. The California Coastal Commission approved a permit for the year-round barrier during its July meeting. The city currently keeps the rope barrier up only during the winter-spring pupping season.