In La Jolla, Calif., The Birds Are Causing A Stink

By: CBS posted by Carissa Fox
By: CBS posted by Carissa Fox


(CBS News) LA JOLLA, Calif. - There's trouble in paradise and it has to do with smell. The story comes from Southern California about the cost of the waterfowl making the water foul and the nearby land as well.

La Jolla, California is known for the wealth of its residents and wealth of natural beauty. Tourists stroll these bluffs just yards from sea birds and sea lions.

Now the wildlife that draws people is repulsing them with a powerful, acrid stench.

The stench wafting up from the bluffs is from bird excrement. But the bluffs are protected by strict California environmental laws, which essentially have wrapped the problem in government red tape.
/ CBS News

George Howard has owned a restaurant atop the bluffs for 29 years. "The smell was so overpowering, we had guests get up and leave. They said they couldn't imagine eating with that sensory overload going on ."

Two years ago, La Jolla built a fence to keep people from trampling the fragile bluffs. Now undisturbed, the birds and beasts settled in and started to stink.

The stench wafting up from these bluffs is -- well, there is no pleasant way to say it -- from bird excrement. But these bluffs are protected by strict California environmental laws, which essentially have wrapped this problem in government red tape.

With locals gagging and business owners howling, George Howard started a petition to get something -- anything -- done. So far every effort -- from hosing to shoveling -- has been blocked.

"We are not short of regulations here," he said. "Many of them -- particularly the environmental ones -- make sense. But they shouldn't be an obstacle and so inflexible."

To complicate things further, this is national park land, so the federal government also has a say. Local lawyer Mark Evans has been trying to find a solution -- a biodegradable solution to wash it away.

"We would have to get a national pollution discharge elimination system permit. And in the normal course that would take two-three years, they tell us, because of a backlog of applications," said Evans.

For now, says Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, La Jolla is stuck with the stink.

"This is like a perfect storm," she said. "It's a protected area -- very highly protected, very regulated, and very smelly."

La Jolla is hoping for a solution by summer when hot weather heats up the droppings and drops a worse stink bomb at the height of tourist season.

They took the first step toward a solution just this week -- hiring a company to clean the cliffs using some acceptably, environmentally-friendly products.
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