San Diego businesses are suing the city over the stench caused by sea lions who sunbathe - and defecate - near a string of restaurants and hotels.
Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement, a nonprofit made up of five or six business owners, is suing the city of San Diego, interim Mayor Todd Gloria and the state of California, claiming that La Jolla Cove smells too much like sea lion feces, and it's costing them money.
The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 20 in California Superior Court, calls for the city to clean up the excrement and to remove a roughly 4-foot white fence that the business owners say contributes to the sea lion pileup. They claim in the lawsuit that the fence prevents human access to the rocks surrounding the cove, and so the sea lions and birds end up using the coastline as a toilet.
"It's been building up for years," Bryan Pease an environmental attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the group, told ABC News.
"It's just really rancid," said Pease, describing the smell. "It's like foul anchovies. It just depends on what kind of fish they eat."
The lawsuit states that removing the fence would allow for human foot traffic in the area and encourage the sea lions to congregate elsewhere.
"They don't like to eat and poop where the people are," Norm Blumenthal another lawyer representing the business owners, told ABC News.
George's on the Cove, a restaurant with an ocean view that has joined the lawsuit, closes its outdoor dining area, depending on the wind, said Blumenthal.
"The smell is so overwhelming, you can't be out there," he said. "It's costing them tens of thousands of dollars."
La Valencia, a luxury hotel on the cove that has also joined the lawsuit, has had guests check in and check out within 15 minutes because of the smell, according to Blumenthal.
"We're as concerned as everybody else," Alex Roth, a spokesman for Mayor Gloria, told ABC News. "We understand its impact on the quality of life. We will continue to work on solving this problem until we make some headway."
"Shooing them away is a tricky task," said Roth, saying there are federal and state laws to consider. "Which is why we can't snap our fingers and get rid of this problem. It requires a more delicate approach."
Roth said there are "plans of action" in place to address to smell, which will be enacted very shortly.