Residents around several schools in the San Jose Unified District have been complaining about the smell, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
"It is like Highway 5 going through Stockton's feed lot," said Mona Dawn Edwards, who lives near Rachel Carson Elementary School, named after a founder of the modern environmental movement.
While some people complain that the compost smells like cow manure, officials say it is only decaying lawn cuttings.
"There is no cow poo out there," Karen Fuqua, a spokeswoman for the district, said.
Fuqua said there were no complaints in previous years. She and other officials say that smoke and ash from the wildfires plaguing California may be holding the compost smell.
Most residents are willing to put up with the smell, which will dissipate once landscapers complete their work.
"It's not going to be there forever, and the end result will be nice," said Rebecca Auran, who lives across the street from the Carson school.