Judge Timothy Taylor granted the city of San Diego's motion in the lawsuit filed two years ago by Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement. He is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case March 27, after which he can affirm the tentative ruling or change his mind.
The citizens group had claimed that the city and then-interim Mayor Todd Gloria failed to abate a public nuisance at La Jolla Cove. The city argued that the odor was among the risks and benefits of being located beside a marine environment.
With trial approaching, the city filed its motion for summary judgment, contending that it doesn't have a duty to control wildlife, is not the cause of the odor and is immune from liability for natural conditions on its beaches.
"The city does not have a duty to control the alleged nuisance caused by wild animals (cormorants and sea lions)," the judge wrote. "Thus, the city is not liable to (the) plaintiff for nuisance, and summary judgment is warranted on all causes of action."
Taylor also ruled that the plaintiff was unable to show the city's conduct was a substantial factor in causing the odor.
"The court does not minimize the unpleasantness of the odors, and it empathizes with the business challenges they cause for area merchants and restaurateurs," the judge wrote. He said the solution could only come from the political arena, where the concerns of "wildlife needs versus human desires" can be weighed.
The city had taken 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.
Trial had been set for May 1.
— San Diego 6