Is Bird Poop Ruining the Natural Beauty of Mitt Romney’s West Coast Hometown?

Some say it just smells "natural."

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Pelicans at the La Jolla Reefs, San Diego Bay, California, USA

California’s beaches are famous for their sun and sand. But La Jolla Cove in San Diego has accumulated another less desirable attribute: bird droppings.

The picturesque enclave — a popular tourist destination and home to Mitt Romney’s future car elevator — has become unbearably stinky, say residents and visitors, thanks to the avian feces accumulating on its rocky bluffs.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the smell from the birds has never, ever been as bad as it is now,” Megan Heine, the owner of Brockton Villa Restaurant, a century-old seaside institution, told the New York Times. “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.”

The birds aren’t new to La Jolla, so why is the stench? Until a couple of years ago, the cliffs were open to the public; the human traffic kept the birds more or less at bay. But since the rocks were closed off for safety’s sake, the droppings have piled up unhindered. Now, reports the Times, environmental regulations are keeping the city from scrubbing down the rocks, positioned as they are in a delicate coastal ecosystem.

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Members of the City Council have suggested using biodegradable cleaners, but such proposals take a long time to wind their way through the multiple state regulatory agencies protecting the California coastline. “We tried to investigate this as an emergency request, but it hasn’t risen to the level of something like a hazardous spill, where they address it right away,” Council member Sherri Lightner told the Times. “We don’t get to have special regulations for bird poop.”

While many tourists complain of the pervasive odor, not everyone has a problem with it. “It’s not so bad,” a visitor from Cleveland told the Times. “You can kind of handle it. As long as you know it’s natural, you can appreciate it when you see the scenery.”

Romney, who was recently spotted pumping gas in the neighborhood, bought a $12 million seafront villa in La Jolla Cove in 2008, although he doesn’t plan on living in it for long: The Romneys have reportedly submitted a proposal to raze the property and build an 11,000 sq. ft. mansion, complete with underground parking garage, which is still awaiting approval.

Be sure to head over to the NYT to check out their stinky La Jolla Cove slide show.

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