The acrid stench at La Jolla Cove is making its way across the country.

The New York Times featured a story about the infamous stink on its home page on Saturday, about two weeks after Voice of San Diego wrote about the stench and why state regulations have complicated efforts to clean it up.

The smell is a result of built-up bird poop that isn’t getting much oxygen exposure, compounded by a lack of recent rain. Any solutions to the problem will require vetting from multiple layers of regulators because the cove is one of 34 state-protected Areas of Biological Significance.

Ian Lovett noted the red tape and area business owners’ concerns about the stench in his weekend story for the Times.

Here’s what one restaurateur told him:

“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.

“If nothing is done and the smell becomes unbearable, I’m fearful of what that will really do to the business and the appeal of being in La Jolla,” she said.

The story, which included several photos taken by VOSD contributor Sam Hodgson, was among the New York Times website’s most read and emailed over the weekend. Will the national coverage help San Diego officials cut through the red tape?

That’s not yet clear — but the story did get the attention of a couple local media outlets.

Our media partner NBC 7 San Diego cited our story about the stink in a Sunday night report.

Reporter Chris Chan talked to cove visitors and checked in with a local conservation group to get their take on the matter.

U-T San Diego’s editorial board weighed in late Monday, calling on state and local officials to come up with a solution.

The editorial also panned state regulations, including the California Coastal Act, that have complicated efforts to clean up the droppings:

For this to be interpreted as the Coastal Poop Protection Act is preposterous. The buildup of feces isn’t some saintly natural process that must be allowed to run its course lest there be some terrible consequence down the line. It happened because of a combination of circumstance, climate and official decisions. It’s not part of Mother Nature’s grand scheme for La Jolla Cove or the planet.

What’s your take on the stink in La Jolla? Should La Jollans be forced to wait for nature to wash away the problem? What do you think is the best solution to deal with the stinky problem?

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at or 619.325.0528.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.