City not liable for stench in La Jolla Cove, judge rules

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SAN DIEGO -- A Superior Court judge Friday rejected claims in a lawsuit filed by La Jolla business owners upset with a foul odor along the scenic coastline believed to be caused by sea lion and bird droppings.

In confirming his previously tentative ruling, Judge Timothy Taylor granted the city of San Diego's motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit filed two years ago by Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement.

"You have not changed my mind," said Judge Taylor.

Norm Blumenthal, the plaintiff's lawyer, said after the hearing that he will appeal.

The judge ruled the city doesn't have a duty to control any nuisance caused by wild animals and isn't the cause of the odor.

Blumenthal contended the city took on the duty when former Mayor Bob Filner signed a May 2013 executive order calling for guano left by cormorants to be cleaned up.

"There is no evidence this order is out of effect,'' Blumenthal said during oral arguments.

The city had taken a couple of steps to alleviate the odor, including spraying a microbial foam on the rocks and installing a gate in a fence – in hopes that an increased presence of people on the bluffs would deter the sea lions from taking up residence in the area.

The lawyer said the bird stench was cleaned up only to be replaced by a sea lion odor.

“They didn't finish the job,” Blumenthal said. “Two years tells you nothing is going to get done, and people are suffering for it.”

CONA claimed that the city and Todd Gloria, who succeeded Filner for six months before current Mayor Kevin Faulconer took office, failed to abate a public nuisance. The city argued that the odor was among the risks and benefits of being located beside a marine environment.

The city's lawyer, Glenn Spitzer, told the judge that the document from Filner wasn't an executive order, but a memo. He didn't comment after the hearing.

The judge said the issues were best decided in “the political realm.”

Blumenthal said it could take one year to get an appellate ruling.

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  • T.j. Love

    OK, this is the dumbest thing I’ve heard. Not that the city’s not liable, but that the city is even bothering to find out if it’s liable. The city is a service provider and the businesses and citizens are their customers. If one of my customers came in to my showroom and said “Your showroom stinks”, I would do my best to get rid of the stink for fear that they would decide to not do business with me anymore. What good will it do the city to know that it’s not their problem when all the businesses in that area have to shut down and move out because they are not able to attract customers to their stores anymore because of the stench?

    • T.j. Love

      P.S. I am am not affiliated with any business in La Jolla Cove, nor am I directly affected by the stench, or the prospering or failing of any business in La Jolla Cove.

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