Bailey said she got a tour of the Sriracha facility about three weeks ago, while chiles were being crushed. She said she wore a hair net but no mouth covering.

"I didn't have any adverse reaction while I was there," Bailey said. "No burning eyes, no throat constriction, and I've had that while cooking chiles at home."

Bailey said she was surprised the city filed suit, adding she and her husband are aficionados of Sriracha.

"My husband pretty much uses it like ketchup," Bailey said.

So far Huy Fong Foods' factory has passed muster with air quality regulators. The South Coast Air Quality Management District got 11 complaints about odors related to the Irwindale plant — all since Oct. 21, including four Saturday and one Tuesday.

But Sam Atwood, a district spokesman, said the complaints couldn't be confirmed after inspectors did "odor surveillance" of the area on two occasions.

"On both occasions, they could not detect any odor," he said.

Atwood said that odors can be fleeting, depending on factors like the weather, and that deep marine layers can trap odors and pollutants close to the ground. But so far the district has no reason to take any action against Huy Fong Foods, he said.

Kathy Galaz, 66, said the smell is relatively mild. Galaz makes a spicy brand of salsa that makes her sister sneeze and cough, but both are undisturbed by the smell from the factory, which is visible from their front door.

"We walk the dog, we mow the lawn. It doesn't bother us," she said.

Thomas Serrato, 64, of Baldwin Park said it just smells like someone cooking chorizo.

"I knew what it was. It smelled like chili and that's all there is to it," he said. "It didn't burn my eyes or anything."

For years, Huy Fong Foods was based in Rosemead until it started winding down as it completes moving its operations to Irwindale. Odor was never an issue, said Rosemead City Councilman Steven Ly.

"Honestly, until you walk [into the factory], you couldn't smell anything," he said.

Rosemead City Manager Jeff Allred said his staff could not recall a single complaint against the company.

The development deal that brought Huy Fung foods to Irwindale was controversial at the time. The city used $11 million in money intended for affordable housing to buy the 23-acre parcel on Azusa Canyon Road, across the street from a giant gravel pit.

Then officials changed course and decided the land was not suitable for housing. At the time, Irwindale stood to benefit from having commercial development instead of housing development. That's because redevelopment laws at the time allowed the city's redevelopment agency to collect a larger share of property tax revenues from commercial projects.

But redevelopment was abolished in 2011, and much more of those property taxes now flow to the state, schools and county.

Davidson, the city manager, said Irwindale does not want Huy Fong Foods to leave.

"Our only desire is for them to take corrective actions to alleviate the public nuisance," he said.

Across the street from the factory, Young Ja Whang, 68, runs the cash register at the Liquor Junior Market she owns with her husband. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., she leaves the door open and allows the scent of freshly ground chiles to waft into her store. She finds the scent mild, even a little pleasant.

"I'm an old lady and I have no problem with it," Whang said. "Actually, we like it!"