Yes – the white stuff on the rock is bird poop
Photo by brianne.leary
Come here for the sights. (There is not a more majestic spot to watch the sun set over the Pacific.) Or come for the sounds. (The waves crash against the rocks, and the sea lions bark at one another on the bluffs.)
But don’t come for the smell.
In beautiful La Jolla Cove, art galleries and coffee shops meet a stretch of unspoiled cliffs and Pacific Ocean. Home to former presidential candidates (Mitt Romney has been spotted pumping his own gas here in recent days) and seal colonies alike, the neighborhood provides one of this city’s primary tourist draws.
But the smell, a pungent stench that emanates from the accumulation of bird feces on the rocks, has become a growing problem. And strict environmental regulations in the cove have stymied the city’s efforts to address the problem before it drives tourists and businesses away, effectively roping the rocks off with red tape.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the smell from the birds has never, ever been as bad as it is now,” said Megan Heine, the owner of Brockton Villa Restaurant, which overlooks the cove from a historic building that has been on the cliffs for more than 100 years. She said guests asked about the stench so frequently that her wait staff had become adept at explaining its cause…
Until a few years ago, the smell was never a problem because the bluffs were open for people to walk on. But since the rocks were closed off, partly because of safety concerns, sea gulls and cormorants have taken over, their droppings have piled up and the smell has grown more acrid by the day.
…Because the waters in the cove are part of a coastal area specially protected by the state, multiple state regulatory agencies would have to issue permits before the agents could be used, a process that regulators have indicated would probably take at least two years…
For the moment anyway, there seems to be little city officials can do except hope for winter rainstorms, which in years past have washed the rocks and alleviated some of the smell.
“We need to consider a range of alternatives for cleaning the rocks, and one of those could be no project, just sit and wait for rain,” said Kanani Brown, an analyst for the California Coastal Commission, one of the regulatory agencies. “I know that’s not ideal for local businesses, but that’s historically been the approach.”
Got a smile from me. I had forgotten how strong seagull poop could smell; but, I surely remember it from my kidhood.
Growing up on the New England coast, we were a family that relied on subsistence fishing to supplement my father’s civil service paycheck. At least one day of each weekend, year-round was spent either on a certain local breakwater at the entrance to the city harbor – or at the end of a pier originally built to bring visitors in from a ferryboat to a nearby amusement park.
The park is long gone. Probably the pier, too. But that breakwater survived hurricanes and I imagine it’s still there. And on a sunny summer afternoon, the favorite places for seagulls to congregate and argue and poop – could wrinkle your nose hundreds of yards away.