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It’s Beef Week at Voice of San Diego. We’re explaining some of the region’s long-running tensions — and the characters behind them — to help you understand civic affairs in San Diego.

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Plenty of San Diego beefs cross industries and party lines. This one crosses species.

La Jollans have long bemoaned the stench hovering around their sleepy, affluent hollow, but for a while there, business owners and residents blamed birds for the smell. It wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that a new nemesis emerged: sea lions. Specifically, their poop.

As you might imagine, the smell isn’t exactly appetizing, and restaurateurs in the area have banded together with residents to force the city to address it. George Hauer, founding president of the awesomely named Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement and owner of George’s at the Cove, was critical of the efforts to deal with the smell, including a microbial foam meant to digest bird shit.

He told the La Jolla Light he’d seen the sea lions up on the bluffs at night, worsening the problem:

“Then, during the day, they go back down to the water again. So, all the waste is accumulating and it reeks to high heaven up there. The smell has not been solved.”

Hauer called the microbial foam spraying, “a total waste of money,” saying “the spraying probably helped with the birds, but when you’ve got 30 or 40 or 50 sea lions crapping up on the cliffs at night, the spraying is negated within a day or two.”

Bryan Pease was one of two local attorneys who sued the city on behalf of Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement. Pease, remember, is the same guy who’s spent years fighting to protect seals at the La Jolla Children’s Pool. But these are different animals, Pease has pointed out. “I do not want the harbor seals we’ve worked to protect for so long being blamed for this odor they are not causing.” (Alas, sea lions vs. seals is a beef for another day.)

Superior Court Judge Tim Taylor rejected Pease and the group’s claims in March, and since then, the city’s been considering other methods to deter the marine beasts and keep La Jollans happy.  In the near future, you might see lifeguards using the “crowding boards” popular among SeaWorld personnel, or other harassing techniques approved under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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