John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Locals in La Jolla have long complained the fetid smell hurts business.
With its gorgeous bluffs and shimmering waters, the tony San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla has been called the “jewel of Southern California.” People who’ve visited, however, might know it as Davy Jones' Bathroom, thanks to a revolting and persistent odor of bird and sea-lion poop.
Some have described the stench as having notes of “a farm,” “foul anchovies,” “rotting seal butts,” and “wet dog trapped in a sweaty humid room.” Others say it’s more like “morning breath,” “ocean miso,” and “like all of San Diego took a dump at once.” But the general agreement is it’s bad—so bad that local businesses sued in 2013 to force the city to clean up the animal waste. Here’s all you need to know about that failed suit from the Los Angeles Times:
The stink offends the patrons of some of La Jolla's best known restaurants overlooking the cove and visitors to the famed La Valencia Hotel, according to the lawsuit filed by a group calling itself Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement. …
The smell is costing restaurants and hoteliers money, the lawsuit alleges.
Champion boxer Floyd Mayweather and his entourage booked two villas and six rooms at the La Valencia Hotel but then left after 15 minutes because of the smell, the lawsuit alleges:
"That is over $5,000 in one day's rooms revenue that walked in and out of the La Valencia Hotel as a result of the noxious smell emanating from the cliffs."
La Jolla’s tried many tactics to eliminate the poopy smell—soliciting advice from other coastal communities; looking to hire an behavioral specialist to make the animals move away; putting the sea lions in tiny diapers (although that last one turned out to be an April Fools joke). Right now it uses a special spray that washes the dung off the rocks at a cost of more than $7,000 a month. But the community might’ve finally located a better solution: a system of plastic cylinders known as a “Marine Mammal Safety Barrier.”
The barrier looks like big pasta rollers that, if this were Looney Tunes, would flatten sea lions into furry, barking carpets. In reality they simply spin when animals try to cross them, blocking their movement toward land. The UCSD Guardian reports:
The proposed Marine Mammal Safety Barrier consists of two to three levels of plastic cylinders fixed on stainless steel cables suspended from solid, stainless steel posts drilled in the ground close to the water; this would prevent the animals from climbing up the rocks near people and establishments because they would not be able to get traction to climb over the barriers….
The Coastal Committee considered other solutions, including physical removal of the animals with harassment techniques approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration such as ultrasonic fences, electrical dispersal, visual deterrents and audio deterrents—many of which would require persistent long-term efforts or may pose dangers to either the animals, humans or land.
The barrier needs approval from a state commission, but given that a similar one was OKed last year, it’ll likely be installed. That means folks might finally start talking about the delicious food at La Jolla’s many restaurants, and not the “boiling hot diarrhea soup” that seemingly perfumes the air.