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April 9, 2013

Swanky beach enclave seeks relief from bird stench

SAN DIEGO — La Jolla's jagged coastline is strictly protected by environmental laws to ensure the San Diego community remains the kind of seaside jewel that has attracted swanky restaurants, top-flight hotels and some of the nation's rich and famous, including billionaire businessman Irwin Jacobs and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Tourists flock to the place. So do birds. Lots of birds. And with those birds comes lots of poop.

So rather than gasping in amazement at the beautiful views, some are holding their noses from the stench coming from the droppings that cake coastal rocks and outcroppings near its business district.

"We've had to relocate tables inside because when people go out to the patio, some are like 'Oh my God. I can't handle the smell,'" said Christina Collignon, a hostess at Eddie V's, a steak and seafood restaurant perched on a cliff straight up from the guano-coated rocks.

On a recent afternoon, tourists on spring break walked along the sea wall. Some scrunched up their faces in disgust.

"It smells like something dead," said Meghan Brummett as she looked at the birds with her husband and children. The family was visiting from Brawley, a farming town two hours east of San Diego.

Biologists say the odor is the smell of success: Environmental protections put in place over the past few decades have brought back endangered species.

Cormorants and brown pelicans nearly became extinct in the 1970s because of the pesticide DDT. The brown pelican was taken off the federal endangered species list in 2010, and its population, including the Caribbean and Latin America, is estimated at more than 650,000. The total U.S. cormorant population is about 2 million.

La Jolla is a state-designated area of "special biological significance." That means California strictly regulates its waters to protect its abundant marine life, which also attracts birds.

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