San Diego’s law-driven stench problem: Dickens was right

San Diego’s law-driven stench problem: Dickens was right

300px-090207-LaJollaCoveIn fall 2012, The New York Times shared a pathetic San Diego story with the nation. The piece was headlined “California Cove Blessed With Nature’s Beauty Reels From Its Stench.” Sample:

“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.

“’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.”

An indictment of the stupidity of our government

law-is-an-assGuess what? The problem is still horrible. I wrote about it in today’s U-T San Diego.

“Of all the advances achieved by the Roman Empire before its collapse in the fifth century, one of the most unprecedented was the infrastructure to ensure the efficient removal of animal and human waste from urban areas.

“Incredibly enough, some 1,600 years later, a city that is home to some of the most advanced scientific research on Earth finds itself unable to deal with disgusting conditions triggered by waste from seals, sea lions, pelicans, seagulls and other birds.

“That is the proper context with which to see the maddening saga of the stench emanating from the rocky areas and cliffs at La Jolla Cove. It has been 13 months since a New York Times story laid bare for the nation not just our local shame but the collapse of common sense in the Golden State — the idiocy of environmental rules so rigid and so far-reaching that removal of animal feces is somehow classified as a threat to nature.

“The odor problem ebbed for a time, but now it is back — a nauseating pall on an otherwise beautiful part of San Diego. And this time, it has prompted a lawsuit by the owners of the nearby La Valencia Hotel and George’s at the Cove, who argue — correctly — that city officials haven’t done enough to fix this stomach-turning problem.

“But that’s also true of state and federal regulators who pronounce themselves unable to act with any sort of urgency. If state and federal law governing nature is so all-powerful that it prevents the removal of animal waste from areas densely populated by humans, then, as a Charles Dickens’ character said, the law is an ass.”

Does anyone defend the bureaucratic sclerosis here? Can anyone with a straight face argue that it makes sense?

I didn’t think so.

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