Mayor Bob Filner wants to clear those stinking bird droppings off the La Jolla Cove himself.

Even the idea inspires delight among nearby businesses who struggle on days the stench is especially acrid but Filner’s staff would rather he not show up at the cove with cleaning supplies.

“They are trying to restrain me from going up and hosing everything down,” Filner joked on Wednesday. “I’m gonna give it a little time to work before I do it.”

Removing the piles of feces that fester without adequate rain is understandable, but the cove is one of 34-state protected Areas of Special Biological Significance, meaning any clean-up plans must be vetted by multiple layers of regulators. And even if those regulators don’t pounce, outside groups may file suit if the city doesn’t follow the rules.

Though the bird guano naturally flows into the ocean when it rains, regulators consider the droppings pollutants if it happens under other circumstances. That means Filner and city staffers must work with state and federal agencies on a fix that either keeps it out of the ocean or get a permit to let it flow.

Authorities have said it could take years to get a single approval. (For more background on why, check out our initial story on the stench.)

It’s difficult to know whether city staffers are making much progress these days.

City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who represents La Jolla, worked for months on the issue. She organized meetings with regulators and city staffers, researched potential solutions and wrote a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown’s office responded last month, saying it had contacted the state Coastal Commission to ensure leaders would resolve the problem soon. County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who also penned a letter to the governor, received an identical response letter, which you can check out here.

But since Filner took office in December, there’s been little news on progress.

Winter rains have made the situation less urgent and there are hints that city leaders are working on a solution.

Filner’s office, however, hasn’t publicly provided specifics.

That’s despite a recent La Jolla Light report that city officials plan to “regularly vacuum up the waste that accumulates in the pools on the rocks and to perform bird deterrence measures.”

The mayor’s office would not confirm those details or respond to requests following a January Los Angeles Times story that indicated the city was weighing whether to sweep up the bird droppings.

Filner expressed frustration about the morass of regulations during a Wednesday meeting with reporters but didn’t discuss either potential solution.

He would only say that staffers had spoken about “certain regional air-quality regulations and certain state [regulations] that we’ve gotta get permits for” and that the city is trying to work through those.

“I don’t know all the details but they’re telling me you gotta do all this,” he said. “I’m just a little, what shall I say, impatient about that. It just doesn’t seem to be that big (of an) issue that we shouldn’t just take care of it. People there do not deserve to live in that situation.”

We’ve reached out to state regulators who worked with the city before Filner was sworn in but didn’t immediately hear back. We’ll share their responses if they reply.

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.

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

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